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What Is the Online Gambling Situation in Karnataka?

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Online gambling laws are in a state of flux in many places around the world – including India.

Sports fans and people who like to play online casino games in the country can be forgiven for not being able to keep up with all of the latest developments in betting rules and regulations.

Central to the question of whether or not online gambling is legal in Karnataka is the fact that Indian states are given the freedom to set their own rules on areas such as online gambling.

This is similar to in America, where states have been given the green light to decide whether or not they want to legalise online sports betting following a decisive ruling by the Supreme Court.

India is slightly different, though, so what is the state of play in Karnataka? Let’s take a look.

Online Gaming in India – A $2 Billion Industry

The world of online gambling in India is increasingly important. Indeed, by some estimates, the sector is now worth in the region of $2 billion – a truly staggering amount of cash.

However, there have long been arguments in India as to whether online betting ought to be treated as entertainment and not gambling. One of the key debates is around the difference between skill and luck, which has long been used as the basis of online gambling laws.

Some online casino games such as slots are clearly more about luck than the player’s skill. But sports betting can be considered to involve more skill than luck. There are also games such as poker that seem to fit in a grey area between the two, where both skill and luck play a big part.

A recent report from Reuters indicated a government panel is recommending a regulatory body that would aim to classify online games as based on skill or chance should be set up in India.

With the mobile gaming industry in India forecast to grow to $5 billion by the year 2025, it is clear time is of the essence to get a grip on a sector some feel could soon get out of control.

History of Gambling Laws in Karnataka

In October 2021, Karnataka moved to ban all forms of online gambling activity in the state.

This move came about via an amendment to the Karnataka Police Bill and had the impact of making online gambling punishable with a jail term of three years. A financial penalty of up to INR100,000 was also introduced as part of the banning of online gambling in Karnataka.

However, this decision proved to be controversial and there was a lot of criticism as a result.

The ban did not last for long, though, with the Karnataka High Court soon striking down the state government law that banned online gaming. This was welcomed by industry figures such as Said Bimal Julka, who is the chairman of the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports.

Commenting on the decision to strike down the online gaming ban, he said: “The verdict is welcome news for all the sports fans in India, the biggest market for fantasy sports globally, with over 13 crore (130 million) users playing across more than 200 platforms.” Fantasy sports make up another part of the online gaming world, along with other areas such as lotteries, sports betting and games like the Indian classics Teen Patti and Andar Bahar, plus roulette and so on.

The Future of Online Gambling Laws in Karnataka

That was not the end of the matter, adding to the high levels of confusion among the general public around the state of play with the current online gambling laws in Karnataka right now.

In March, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra confirmed in a media interview that the Supreme Court would be moved on the matter as a result of ongoing concern surrounding the world of online gaming. “We still think our response was right as many families have said the online betting menace has destroyed them financially,” he told the Economic Times.

It is also worth noting that the decision to ban online gambling did not affect either “games of chance” nor “games of skill” but there is still a lot of debate over which games are in this category. Naturally, online gaming companies have called for more clarification on the matter.

Calls for national action to be taken on online gambling continue to grow louder. It is not easy to predict what will happen to online gambling laws in Karnataka in the future, but it could be the case that rules and regulations for the sector could be taken out of the state’s hands entirely.

What is for sure is that people in Karnataka would like to know where they stand on this issue. The most recent development was in September, when the Supreme Court said that it would hear a plea by the Karnataka government, challenging the Karnataka High Court judgement.

Can Karnataka Residents Gamble Online Legally Now?

Essentially, with so much having changed surrounding the status of legal online gambling in Karnataka over the past year or so, many residents of the state remain in the dark. The state insists that its move to ban online gaming was not intended to affect games of chance or games of skill, but many people who live in Karnataka will be unsure of the definition of either of them.

Jnanendra has suggested that new online gambling laws could be drafted in order to clear up the current confusion, rather than another move being made to amend the current laws here. As the changes to online gambling laws were struck down, this means that there was, in effect, a reversion to how the old laws stood ahead of the 2021 ban that was introduced in Karnataka. However, residents who want to bet online should keep eyes open for more future changes.

Photo by Carl Raw on Unsplash

Note: Newskarnataka advises its readers to be aware of, and comply with all locally applicable laws and regulations in this regard.

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