In order to regulate online gambling, the government of Tamil Nadu is now seeking public input on proposed legislation to control games such as online rummy. The development follows reports of at least 20 suicide deaths that surfaced recently in the state due to financial debts stemming from these games, including that of a woman who had to deal with debts of gambling allegedly caused by online rummy. On June 10, Tamil Nadu set up a committee headed by former Madras High Court Judge K Chandru to look into the matter. The panel has already submitted its observations in a report.
According to the state government, the general public can send comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They have until August 12 to do so.
Any organization wishing to make a personal representation to the authority concerned was invited to send its request before August 9th. A stakeholder meeting will take place on August 11, where different organizations will be allocated different slots for their presentations.
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The Center, in the meantime, is studying the imposition of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on online gambling, as it is currently clubbed with casinos and horse racing in the country. The Group of Ministers (GoM), led by Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma, is expected to finalize its report on a possible 28% GST on online gambling on August 10.
Late last month, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman flatly called online gambling “nothing but gambling”. “Whether it’s horse racing, online gambling or casinos, the common thread that the Committee has emphasized is that they are part of betting and gambling,” Sitharaman said. “In other words, they’re essentially gambling. There can be an element of skill or an element of chance. But essentially all three are gambling.
Earlier this month, the GoM met with industry bodies and leading operators to discuss the online gaming GST assessment approach and tried to understand how games of skill online are different from betting and gambling.
The GoM has heard the legal distinction between online ‘games of skill’ and ‘games of chance’. Leading representatives of the online gambling industry and tax consultancies have shared several Supreme Court and High Court decisions, which affirmed a clear legal distinction between gambling, which falls under betting and gambling, and games of skill which do not come under it.
According to the decisions of several courts, “games of skill” are legitimate commercial activities protected by Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution since they are not “gambling”. These precedents have repeatedly emphasized that games of chance constitute a gambling activity, unlike games of skill.