On March 8, 2023, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Mr. R.N. Ravi returned the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill (“Bill”) to the State Government (which was passed by the State Legislative Assembly on October 19, 2022).
Earlier, on October 19, 2022, Tamil Nadu’s Law Minister, Mr. S Regupathy, introduced the Bill to the State Legislative Assembly which provided for complete prohibition on online gambling. The Bill was introduced in order to regulate online gaming and to prohibit online gambling/online games of chance. Interestingly, Rummy and Poker feature in the list of games (as provided in the Schedule to the Bill) which are classified as online games of chance.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill claimed that “online gambling and online games are addictive in nature and increase the threat to public order manifold, while posing difficulties in terms of designing appropriate regulation”. Further, the Legislative Assembly particularly identified two potential areas of concern, i.e. (i) ease of access to gambling by means of electronic communication without any restriction of timing and location, and (ii) difficultly in identification of the degree of chance and skill in online games since such games frequently involved players competing against virtual players (which are controlled by computer algorithms).
By way of a background, on the basis of a report provided by a commission led by Justice Chandru and feedback from stakeholders, the Tamil Nadu government decided to ban online gambling and online games of chance like rummy and poker. An ordinance to prohibit online gambling was approved by the Tamil Nadu Cabinet earlier in September, 2022. Since then, two attempts have been made by the Tamil Nadu State Government to enact legislation that would outlaw online gambling and games of chance. Currently, owing to operation of the ordinance, it is not permitted for anyone to provide online gambling services, permit the playing of any online game that involves the use of money or other stakes, or allow the playing of any game that is against the regulations.
The reason cited by the Governor for returning the Bill (passed by the State Legislature) was that the State Legislature allegedly lacks the “legislative competence” to frame and pass the Bill. Subsequent to the return of the Bill, it was taken up during a cabinet meeting (which took place on March 9, 2023) presided over by Chief Minister MK Stalin, where it was decided that a fresh draft of the Bill will be drawn up.