BENGALURU: Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Monday expressed helplessness in implementing a stringent law to ban online gambling in the state, pointing out that the Karnataka High Court had initially ordered a stay and had later struck it down. “There is a lobby behind this. We had done our groundwork and made laws,” he said. The CM also noted that if the police conduct raids and arrest the culprits, they come out on bail by evening.
The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021, was passed by the legislature in September 2021, banning online games. The amendment came into effect from October 5, 2021. The same month, the All-India Gaming Federation moved the Karnataka High Court, challenging the validity of the amendment prohibiting and criminalising playing games of skill, including online games, by risking money or otherwise. In February this year, the High Court struck down certain amendments made by the State Government. During the debate on the budget, former Speaker and senior Congress leader K R Ramesh Kumar expressed concern over betting during IPL cricket matches and said it was going out of control
Bommai said his government had brought in a stringent law last year to curb the online gambling menace, but the high court had struck it down. He pointed out that before framing a draft for a comprehensive law, they had studied similar laws in other states to ensure that there were no loopholes. But online gambling could neither be controlled in those states nor in Karnataka. This shows how powerful the people behind online gambling are, he remarked.
Bommai also mentioned that many people had tried to stop him from bringing such a law, but he was not deterred. “I have seen families getting ruined due to betting and gambling. An online gaming operator went to the extent of offering to provide free Covid-19 vaccines to one lakh people in Shiggaon Assembly constituency which he represents, Bommai said. “I was determined to implement the law. It is money made illegally,’’ he maintained.
Referring to his tenure as Home Minister, Bommai said gambling was made a cognizable offence and punishment was increased from three in jail to five years, so that there is fear among people. “But sadly, the accused who were arrested would get bail the same evening. Most social clubs conduct gambling illegally,’’ he said.