The online gaming industry in India remains in limbo after a division bench of the Delhi High Court ordered both the Delhi and Central governments to review the two Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed against offshore online betting websites as well as online poker sites based in the country.
The PILs were put forward by chartered accountant and social activist Avinash Mehrotra and lawyer Deepti Bhagat. Both petitions are seeking to ban all online gaming websites through the Delhi High Court.
Online Gambling Ruining Families
Mehrotra filed a PIL in May 2019, targeting offshore online wagering sites, which he accused of breaching the country’s FEMA and anti-money laundering regulations by serving local punters and accepting payments from them without paying any taxes.
Mehrotra said these sites are ruining the lives and financial security of several people, as many are enticed to spend their hard-earned money on games of chance. The petitioner added that these websites only care about their profits, putting the future of many Indian youngsters at risk.
The social activist also argued that online poker is a game of chance and is illegal, and therefore Indian companies should be blocked from offering such activity — a similar concern raised by Bhagat when she filed a petition in October. Bhagat argued that online gaming operators should not be allowed to offer their games in India.
Central Government To Have Final Say
There are a number of offshore betting sites and domestic online gaming sites such as PokerStars, Adda52, 1xbet, Dafabet and Betway which run a successful operation in the country. The Delhi government has not been very keen on making a decision on the matter and has delayed things repeatedly.
This time around the Delhi Court has as the Central and Delhi government to determine whether these games are games of skill or games of luck. They were also instructed to review other important aspects such as FEMA violations, money laundering, and taxation concerns with regards to online gambling.
Delhi has also informed the courts that it can only ban gambling operators who are within the state while the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology stated through an affidavit that putting a blanket ban on online betting and card game sites would not be possible as these sites are authorized to operate in other states.
The Delhi government has decided to let the Central government make the final decision on whether online gambling should be allowed or banned and the Delhi Court has accepted the decision.