Another setback for proponents of safe, regulated, and fair gaming emerged last week, with the Tamil Nadu government announcing an intention to ban games of skill in the state.
Citing an increase in suicide rates, Tamil Nadu officials enlisted the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court, which had previously judged against the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act of 2021, ruling it unconstitutional. It would have banned games such as rummy and poker if the amendment had passed.
In justifying their move, an official from the government is quoted as saying: “The High Court lost sight of the fact that the impugned amendment Act, in pith and substance, qualifies as a legislation on the subject of ‘betting’, which is a distinct area open for State legislation under the Constitution.
Furthermore, the government argues the act amendment “makes a clear-cut classification between online games played for financial or other valuable stakes and other games. It has a rational nexus with the stated object of the impugned Act in countering ruinous addiction to gambling activities, which has led to numerous suicides and other economic and social harms. Neither can the impugned Act be described as manifestly arbitrary since its enactment was guided and supported by a body of data and administrative experience describing the ill-effects of gambling addiction in society,”
Also in the justification was the fear that teenagers and adults are losing their life savings to online betting games. Rather than work with progressive lawmakers to establish secure, controlled, and responsible environments for young men and women to gamble, the Tamil Nadu government is choosing to welcome illegal and unregulated bookmakers back into the fold.
Campaigners for safe and open betting on sports and slot games in India now fear for the safety of vast swathes of India’s enormous betting public.
Tamil Nadu’s Reasoning A Backward Step For Gambling
The issue of gambling in India is always a hot topic – particularly in political circles. In Tamil Nadu, leaders see it as low-hanging fruit – a hot-button topic in a largely conservative country, representing an easy vote winner.
In reality, the nuances are quite different. You only need to look at the logic put forward by officials to see how outright prohibition can be a backward step in the fight against illegal gambling and citizen protection. Despite citing high suicide rates, two independent studies commissioned by the government found the link between online rummy and suicide highly exaggerated.
In one study conducted by the Rotary Rainbow Project of Chennai, it was discovered at least two instances of online deaths attributed to online rummy were not accurately reported – with families reporting debt trap as the real reason.
In a further independent investigation by Dr Sandip H. Shah, Professor of Psychiatry and Dean at the Government Medical College in Godhra, he found insufficient public data to determine whether any suicide has been caused by online gaming in Tamil Nadu.
Mr Shah’s study calls for the government to take a more rational approach to scientific studies surrounding online gambling.
What are the Benefits of Gambling Legislation?
Proponents of regulation argue a safe space for gamblers to operate has far-reaching benefits for the rest of society.
For example, a friendly Andar Bahar game between friends and professional dealers is safer and more equitable than a partnership with any underground betting service, where a player’s money is unprotected, and physical safety comes under threat.
Taxation income is another huge plus – experts believe there are vast swathes of grassroots community activity that can benefit from the revenue raised by the government in collaboration with online gambling companies, including investment into responsible gambling charities and education programmes.