The Kerala High Court has directed the Kerala Government to take an appropriate decision on the aspect of inclusion of online gambling and online betting within the purview of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 - a legislation which bans gambling/betting - within a period of two weeks.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly was informed by the Government Pleader that the State Police Chief has submitted a proposal to bring online betting under the Kerala Gaming Act and that the Government was considering the same.
The Court was considering a Public Interest Litigation filed by film director Pauly Vadakkan seeking action against webportals promoting online rummy and similar gambling activities. The Court had earlier issued notice to Indian Cricket captain Virat Kohli, actors Tamanna Bhatia and Aju Varghese, who were brand ambassadors for online rummy portals.
"Play Games 24*7 Private Ltd" and "Mobile Premier League(MPL)"- two companies running online betting portals- were also made respondents in the petition.Petitioner's counsel Advocate Jomy K Jose stated that online gambling is now a growing menace in the state and the primary targets will be middle to low income group people who will be enticed to make easy money.
"These platforms that are even endorsed by celebrities attract their audience with false promise, easily making a fool of unsuspecting people. Primary targets will be middle to low income people who are enticed to make easy money. People fall prey to these fraud platforms only to loose what is left of their life's savings. There have been reports of such scams from across the state", the petition stated.
The petitioner highlighted the recent suicide of a Kerala youth after he lost money in online betting.
It was pointed out that the High Courts of Madras and Gujarat have passed directions against online gambling, and states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Odisha have brought laws against it.
In this connection, the petitioner pointed out that the Kerala Gaming Act 1960- which regulates gambling activities- is inadequate to deal with the challenges posed by online gambling as it does not have provisions covering activities done virtually via electronic devices.
In November 2020, the Madras High Court had asked the Tamil Nadu Government to bring a law to curb online betting. Following that, the Tamil Nadu government brought an Ordinance recently. The Gujarat High Court has also passed a similar direction.