Madras HC declares law banning online rummy & poker as unconstitutional

In a positive development and upswing for the gaming industry, the Madras High Court overturned the Tamil Nadu government’s ban on online rummy and poker, recognizing  them as games of skill, not chance. Chief Justice Sanjay Gangapurwala and Justice Audikesavulu of the Madras HC bench explicitly stated that the state government has the authority to make rules such as limiting time spent on online games or imposing age restrictions on games involving chance or skill. This decision offers relief to the gaming industry while highlighting that regulatory measures remain within the state’s purview.

This marks the second occasion on which the Tamil Nadu government’s attempt to outlaw online games like rummy and poker has been thwarted. In August 2021, the same court had declared similar amendments unconstitutional. Online gaming companies asserted the legitimacy of their platforms, highlighting compliance with GST and ethical business practices. They also asserted their right to operate, drawing a difference between regulation and outright prohibition of online games.

The TN government argued that no player affected by the online rummy ban had stepped forward to contest it in court and  that the legal action was initiated only by the companies profiting from these games. The state emphasized that the Supreme Court has acknowledged the authority’s ability to restrict rummy playing outside club premises. Concerns were raised about online games operating incessantly without geographical constraints, along with apprehensions about gaming portals enticing players with profit incentives and the potential use of bots acting as human participants. Despite these arguments, the court’s decision stands as a big victory for the legality of these games.

Earlier in the year, leading online gaming companies like GamesKraft, Play24x7, and Head Digital, supported by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), had legally challenged the ban, claiming that their online offerings constitute games of skill. The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and gaming companies are lauded for their persistent efforts, and Roland Landers, CEO of AIGF, deserves praise for his positive outlook on this landmark decision. As India strives for a $5 trillion digital economy by 2025, the burgeoning online gaming sector is set to play a crucial role in shapping the economy.

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