After Madras high Court, now the Kerala High Court has brought a sigh of relief to the online rummy gaming companies by calling it a game-of-skill.
Online gaming, the sun-rising sector of India has just started to expand, however, it is also attracting controversies that are hindering the growth. The constant attempt to put a blanket ban on several games without differentiating between game-of-skill and game-of-chance is a problem that the companies are constantly facing.
The next in line was the Kerala Government. However, on Monday, the Kerala High Court quashed the notification issued under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960, banning online Rummy in the State of Kerala and called it a game-of-skills. “We are seeing a recent trend where the governments are coming down hard on online gaming. However, in the process, they are falling foul of the law as is witnessed by judgments in these cases,” said Siddharth Jain, Co-Founding Partner, PSL Advocates & Solicitors.
The order comes after a month when its neighbouring state Karnataka has placed a draft to put a ban on all games that are suspected not to require a skill. Also, just like Madras High Court, the Kerala High Court decision brings a sigh of relief for the gaming companies.
Vaibhav Odhekar, Co-Founder and COO of POKKT, said, “We completely agree with the honourable high court here and are glad that such clarification has been provided. In the Indian context, a lot of parties/individuals have seemingly used gaming and gambling interchangeably. This has resulted in tarnishing the image of the “gaming industry” in this country. It’s high time that we make this distinction clear. Games of skill should be allowed irrespective of stakes or not and not be subject to state politics.”
Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation, stated, “The judgment passed by the Kerala High Court is reassuring for this sunrise sector in India, particularly coming in quick succession of the recent historic positive judgment for online skill gaming by the Madras HC. We believe that this development will give a major fillip to the industry by encouraging investments leading to technological advancements as well as generation of revenue and employment.”
Supporting the Kerala High Courts decision, Rishi Anand, Partner, DSK Legal, said, “The Kerala High Court judgment gives a huge sigh of relief to India’s flourishing online skill gaming industry, but it still remains a concern that states are actively trying to circumvent decisions of no less than the Supreme Court that has clarified that online rummy is a game of skill and not of chance. Before Kerala, Tamil Nadu had imposed a similar ban and the Madras High Court had to intervene. Now, the state of Karnataka is coming up with a ban that is stricter than the others and covers an even broader ambit. It is worth reiterating here that a ban on online rummy is effectively a breach of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.”
“The judgment seems to be in line with the law laid down by the Supreme Court on ‘game of skill’. While the gaming industry would welcome this judgment, the same cannot be considered to be a settled position for all, since certain state governments like that of Karnataka appear to be keen on putting a complete ban on online games which are played with stakes. With favourable judgments in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the companies in the gaming industry are expected to use these as precedents for making a good case in case of any disputes of such kind in future,” said Nikhil Varma, Managing Partner, and Miglani Varma, Co-advocates, Solicitors, and Consultants.