The state of Chhattisgarh has notified the Chhattisgarh Gambling (Prohibition) Act, 2022, replacing the erstwhile statute – The Public Gambling Act, 1867. The intent of the legislature behind enactment of this legislation is to curb the circulation of illegal money in gambling by prohibiting and preventing gambling in all forms (including online gambling) in order to prevent financial troubles to any individuals and families.
The Act has adopted an inclusive definition of ‘gambling’ by stating that it – ‘includes the wagering or betting, or wagering or betting through online for the purpose of financial gain, but does not include lottery’. The statute goes on to state that – ‘Any transaction by which a person in any capacity whatever, employs to wager or bet another in any capacity whatever, or for another in any capacity whatever, appoints to wager or bet with another person, shall be deemed to be “Gambling”’. Further, as per the statute – ‘The collection or soliciting of distribution of bets or the receipt of winnings or prizes in the money or otherwise in respect of wagering or betting or any act which is intended to aid or facilitate wagering or betting or such collection, soliciting, receipt or distribution shall also be deemed to be “Gambling”’. A Gambling House, under the Act is defined to include cyber space, online gambling platform where gambling takes place or where instruments of gambling are kept or used.
The Act has defined Online Gambling as, ‘means to involve online in any gambling or competition or any gambling in any form in any name whatever it may be or accepting the method in any form of combination of any digits or figures or signs or symbols or pictures or by any process of selection, or obtains online or attempts to obtain online abets to obtain online through computer network, computer system or mobile app or internet or any other communication device, electronic application, software or any virtual platform of such digits or figures or signs or symbols or pictures.’.
Unlike some of the other State legislations, the Act has differentiated between game of skill and game of chance, by defining a game of skill as a game where, ‘outcome of the game is predominantly determined by the knowledge, training, expertise and experience of the participant’ and a game of chance as, ‘outcome of the game is not predominantly determined by the knowledge, training, expertise and experience of the participant but it determined by the chance and luck.’ The Act has limited its scope of application to games of chance only and removed games of skills from its purview.
The Act has penalised gambling in public places with an imprisonment that may extend to six months or fine of at least INR 3000 (Three Thousand Indian Rupees) but not more than INR 10,000 (Ten Thousand Indian Rupees), and in case the magistrate thinks it fit, they can impose both fine and imprisonment on the violator.
In case of operation of a gambling house (which includes an online gaming platform) the Act has prescribed imprisonment of at least six months, which may extend to three years along with fine that may extend to INR 50,000 (Fifty Thousand Indian Rupees), in case of a first offender. However, in case of second violation, the imprisonment will be for at least a period of two years and may extend to five years along with imposition of fine which may extend to a maximum of INR 1,00,000 (One Lakh Indian Rupees). The Act also seeks to penalise a person’s presence in a gambling house with either imprisonment that may extend to six months or fine that may extend to INR 10,000 (Ten Thousand Indian Rupees), or with both. It is pertinent to note that the Act categorically states that any person found in a gambling house will be presumed to have been there for the purposes of gambling, unless proven otherwise.
The Act has also imposed penalty for operating, managing or providing an online gambling platform with an imprisonment of at least one year that may extend to three years, along with imposition of fine of at least INR 50,000 (Fifty Thousand Indian Rupees) that may extend to INR 5,00,000 (Five Lakh Indian Rupees), for the first offence. In case an individual or entity commits the offence for the second time, the term of imprisonment shall be at least two years that may extend to seven years and the fine shall be at least INR 1,00,000 (One Lakh Indian Rupees) and may extend to 10,00,000 (Ten Lakh Indian Rupees).
Additionally, the Act has imposed penalty for voluntarily providing one’s bank account, mobile application wallet account or any other account for gambling in any form with either imprisonment that may extend to six months or a fine that may extend to INR 10,000 (Ten Thousand Indian Rupees), or with both. The Act has also prohibited advertising gambling by imposing imprisonment that may extend to three years as well as a fine that may extend to INR 50,000 (Fifty Thousand Indian Rupees). Further, the Act has imposed equal punishment on corporate entities that may violate the provisions of the Act, with imposition of liability on its personnel as well (if applicable).
The State of Chhattisgarh has joined the list of states in India that have introduced specific legislation in the last few years, for regulation or prohibition of online gambling. It will be interesting to see the implications of this Act upon the gambling, especially online gambling platform providers.