iPoker operators’ shutdown their online poker sites in Tamil Nadu after the government introduced the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act which banned all forms of online gambling. Tamil Nadu decided to crack down on online gambling after multiple public interest litigation (PILs) cases were filed with the Madras High Court.
The PILs alleged that young Indians were falling prey to these online gambling sites that exploited them and caused them to incur huge gambling debts. Online gambling witnessed a massive spike throughout India during the COVID-19 lockdown as young Indians turned to online casino and betting sites for entertainment and a way to make money during the lockdown.
The High Court gave the government the option of regulating online gambling or banning online gambling and the TN government decided to ban online betting and gambling. The law stated that anyone violating this act would pay a fine of 10K rupees ($170) and face a max jail term of 24 months.
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Most of the top poker sites including PokerStars India, Adda52 and Poker Baazi decided to exit Tamil Nadu in light of the ban.
Court Overturns Ban
Online poker operators fought back and said the new law clubbed online gambling and online poker together which was wrong online poker was a game of skill and should not be clubbed along with games of chance.
The Madras High Court reviewed the case and ended up overturning the new law stating that it was unconstitutional as it prevented Indians from exercising their right to run their own business, profession or trade. Playing online poker and making a living would come under this category and hence be a violation of the constitution.
The Court not only struck down the law but also instructed the TN government to put together a new rules to regulate the online poker market in the state. The judgement has now paved the way for online poker operators to return to Tamil Nadu.
Since the court ruling, a number of poker operators have already returned with only PokerStars India taking some time to relaunch. This is good news not only for poker players in Tamil Nadu but also for poker players and operators in other states.
Karnataka which is a neighbouring state to Tamil Nadu is also contemplating a ban on online gambling but given the recent ruling in Tamil Nadu, the proposed online gambling ban in Karnataka could also face a similar ruling in the Karnataka High Court.