TN Governor RN Ravi. (Photo | Express/Ashwin Prasath)
TN Governor RN Ravi. (Photo | Express/Ashwin Prasath)

Gambling law: Tamil Nadu answers Governor’s three queries in 24 hours

The minister said the governor had raised the three queries based on the Madras HC order that struck down the previous law banning online gambling.

CHENNAI: With just two days left for the ordinance banning online gambling to lapse, the state on Friday submitted its reply to three clarifications sought by Governor R N Ravi regarding the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gaming and Regulation of Online Games Act, 2022, passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly. The governor gave his assent to the ordinance on October 1.

Law minister S Reghupathy told reporters on Friday that all queries raised by the governor were clarified within 24 hours of receiving the letter from the Raj Bhavan at 11am on Thursday. Incidentally, the governor did not give an appointment to the law minister, home secretary, and law secretary to meet him in person to clarify the doubts. “The state government sent a written reply at 11am on Friday,” the minister said.

The minister said the governor had raised the three queries based on the Madras HC order that struck down the previous law banning online gambling. According to the minister, the governor had said the bill failed to factor in the observations made by the HC, the bill does not differentiate between a game of chance and a game of skill, which goes against Article 19 (1) (g) of the constitution, and the ban can only be proportional and not a blanket one.

The law minister said the government had clarified that the bill distinguishes between a game of chance and a game of skill and as per the doctrine of proportionality, the law seeks to ban only online gambling and does not impose a total ban. The governor had also cited the HC order that said skill-based games are not covered under ‘Betting and Gambling’ in state list under the seventh schedule of the constitution.

State says bill in conformity with Indian constitution

The governor opined that the present bill does not take into consideration this distinction. In response, the state has clarified that the entry ‘Betting and Gambling’ does cover online gambling since the person is playing against a computer code written by the game developer in online games and chances of the person being cheated and money being swindled are high.

The bill aims to ban only such online gambling, the state had said in its reply to the governor. The state has also clarified that the bill is in conformity with the constitution as it deals with matters involving betting and gambling, public order, public health, and theaters and dramatic performances which are part of the state list under the seventh schedule.

The clampdown on online gambling came after the state constituted a committee under retired HC judge Justice K Chandru to recommend grounds to promulgate an ordinance on “online rummy”. Earlier, the Madras HC has struck down as unconstitutional Part II of Tamil Nadu Gaming & Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, which amended the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, to ban playing of games such as rummy and poker on cyberspace with stakes.

The minister also said the state has jurisdictional constraints in implementing the ban and the centre should come out with a single legislation to regulate online games. The ban on online gambling was challenged by EGaming Federation (EGF) in the Madras HC but the petition was withdrawn after the state said the ordinance has not been notified.

The New Indian Express