Court Orders Madhya Pradesh To Submit Online Gaming Policy

September 2, 2022
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The High Court for India’s fifth most populous state has ordered the state government to take legislative or regulatory action on online gaming by November 30.

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The High Court for India’s fifth most populous state has ordered the state government to take legislative or regulatory action on online gaming by November 30.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court in Jabalpur on Monday (August 29) said the “wider ramifications” of aberrant gaming behaviour required that the government declare its stance on online gaming regulation in three months’ time, rather than the six months requested by government counsel.

The court order potentially adds the state of around 80m people to a list of major Indian states, including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, that are grappling with High Court opposition to their bans on online skill gaming products such as rummy and poker.

Justice Vivek Agarwal referred to the welfare of young people not just in Madhya Pradesh, but across India.

“In any case this issue having wider ramifications on the economic, physiological and physical health of youth of the country cannot wait for an inordinately long period,” the New Indian Express daily quoted his order as saying.

“Therefore, instead of six months time as prayed by the [state government], three months time is granted to bring on record concrete/action taken report.”

Madhya Pradesh, a central state whose population was 73m in the 2011 census and is India’s second-largest state by area, had been off the radar in terms of gaming industry litigation and legislation.

That changed in June this year, when a bail application by a sports-betting customer accused of illegally withdrawing more than $10,000 from a family member’s bank account was presented to the court.

Justice Agarwal has now turned the case into a trigger for legislative or regulatory reform, although it remains unclear how the government will respond.

On Monday, government counsel unsuccessfully argued for a six-month extension by citing the central government’s efforts to coordinate a response to online gaming matters across state governments at a meeting on July 21.

That meeting deferred consideration of the matter to an inter-state panel of government representatives.

But Madhya Pradesh’s attempt to delay the case further hints at a more pragmatic approach than the hardline opposition to online gaming in governments such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, which have appealed their High Court rejections to the Supreme Court of India.

Meanwhile, a separate High Court case in Madhya Pradesh could also have an impact on online gaming as part of a plaintiff’s wider attack on social media platforms.

The case brought by the non-profit Maatr Foundation in the Indore branch of the High Court seeks to regulate online activity by Facebook India, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms, including mechanisms for online gaming.

Justices Vivek Rusia and Amarnath Kesarwan ordered the defendants and several central government ministries to respond by October 17.

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