The Karnataka Assembly passes a law banning online gambling

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka Congregation voted on Tuesday to vote an amendment to the Karnataka Police Act of 1963 aimed at banning online “gambling”. Prime Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the proposed law does not prohibit online games that strictly conform to the functions of “skill games”.

However, the government will deal with operators and fraudsters who organize games of chance disguised as games of skill, said the Prime Minister. Even games of skill that risk losing money would take legal action, he said.

The Prime Minister responded to a request from Sharath Bachegowda (Hoskote) that foreign online gambling operators cannot have free rein if their local operators are caught and punished. This is how the government successfully fought the matka threat, he said.

Interior Minister Araga Jnanendra called on the House of Representatives to pass the law. It defines online games comprehensively, captures the latest technological advances, and mentions all types of electronic devices including cell phones, computers and tablets to ensure there are no loopholes. It defines prohibited online games as “any act or risk of money … on an unknown outcome of an event, including a game of skill”.

The bill makes most criminal offenses, such as operating such games, shielding such operations, and aiding and abetting such online games, both identifiable and non-bailable. It suggests a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh for offenders.

However, Congress MLA and former IT minister Priyank Kharge said the bill does not properly reflect the distinction between games of skill and games of chance. In a tweet, he said the government needed to be more specific and identify games that encourage betting. The government should form an industry stakeholder committee and pass a law restricting online betting instead of a bill that will fail legal scrutiny, he said.

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