The Karnataka government made all forms of gambling cognisable and non-bailable offence by passing an amendment to Karnataka Police Act, 1963.
The law was passed in Karnataka legislature on September 21 and the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021 came into force on October 5.
The law is similar to the one passed by the government of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. It is already facing legal challenges for increasing the ambit beyond the definition of law.
Tamil Nadu Gambling and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 was stuck down by Madras High Court for being ultra vires.
The Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 was similarly stuck down by Kerala High Court in line with Madras High Court judgment. The law had banned online rummy.
Since the law has come into action, many online gaming apps have geo-locked their sites and apps in Karnataka in fear of police action.
Concerns in law
The law has included games of skill along with games of chance in the definition of gaming, if the games of skill are played for prizes or bets.
The gaming companies have argued in the court that competitive games of skill are business activities protected under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution.
There has been arguments that states do not have legislative competence to prevent games of skill and that only games of chance can be regulated for gambling.
Need for amendment
A judgment of Karnataka High Court had said that police do not have authority to raid gambling dens without a formal written order from a magistrate, since gambling is a non-cognisable and bailable offence.
There were public interest litigations demanding a ban on online gaming and betting, forcing the government to bring such a law.
The coverage of law
The law covers all games of chance and betting with the exception of horse racing and lotteries. It provides an exception only to any pure game of skill.
Use of cyberspace and other communication device as defined in the Information Technology Act 2000 for gambling or betting activities are also banned.
A maximum punishment of one year to three years of imprisonment and fines from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 lakh is imposed. A minimum of six months punishment is proposed.