K’taka HC decision major relief for skill-based gaming: Industry bodies

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Gaming industry bodies and firms on Monday hailed the decision by the Karnataka High Court to strike down the law banning online games, saying that it is a major relief for skill-based gaming firms that had shut down operations in the state.

The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was mooted by the ruling BJP to amend the Karnataka Police Act 1963, in the Monsoon session. The leaders claimed that they were introducing the Bill to ban online gaming in the interest of people. The new Act banned all formats of online games involving wagering, betting and gambling of all nature and forms in the state.

Roland Landers, CEO of All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), said that “as the apex industry body for online skill gaming, we welcome the decision by the Karnataka High Court to lift the ban on online skill gaming”.

“We look forward to working with the Government and all relevant stakeholders to develop a clear regulatory framework that will enable legitimate gaming companies to operate in the state with safeguards while eradicating illegal gambling apps from the state,” Landers said in a statement.

Under the new legislation, online gaming was considered a non-bailable offence with a fine of Rs 1 lakh and imprisonment up to three years. Along with banning games of skills, the government had also categorised online games using electronic means and virtual currency, electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game as gambling.

“It’s a great day for the real-money gaming (RMG) industry. This segment is being recognised specially from top judicial institutions of the country. Even the central government has been showing support to the gaming industry as seen in the recent budget,” said Puneet Singh, Co-founder and COO, Baazi Games.

The online gaming companies had moved to the court questioning the new legislation. Similar law was also challenged in Tamil Nadu and online gaming operators got relief against the government order from the High Court.

Bimal Julka, Chairman, Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), said the verdict is welcome news for all the sports fans in India, the biggest market for fantasy sports globally, with more than 13 crore users playing across 200 platforms.

“This judgement follows other positive judgements given by High Courts in Punjab & Haryana, Rajasthan and Bombay that recognised fantasy sports as games of skill and a legitimate business activity protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. The view has been further upheld by the Supreme Court multiple times,” Julka said.

Julka said that the federation looks forward to working with the Karnataka government in line with the recent budget announcement and the government’s vision to set up the animation, visual effects, gaming and comic (AVGC) taskforce to encourage Indian entrepreneurs in the fantasy sports sector.

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