The game of ‘skill’ vs ‘chance’ debate is now several decades old. Most anti-gambling laws exempt games which involves skill. Disputes around whether or not a game involves skill has also been well litigated by state governments and industry. Broadly, courts have concluded that games like rummy, poker, horse racing, online chess, etc. involve skill and hence, given them constitutional protection, i.e. the fundamental right to carry on trade and occupation.
Just last year, the Supreme Court in Dream11’s case concluded that fantasy sports, too, is a ‘game of skill’. Yet, just a month later, the company had to suspend its operations in Karnataka after the state government amended the police legislation. The government notified the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021 banning gaming through internet and mobile apps.
In response to the most intuitive question — how can the government ban a game of skill which has got the blessing of the apex court, the Karnataka government’s response is: ‘If you ask wrong questions, you will only get wrong answers.’
Advocate General of Karnataka Prabhuling Navadgi argued so while defending the amendment in the high court which recently reserved its order after two-month long hearings in the case.
The All India Gaming Federation, Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports, Mobile Premier League, Games24x7, A23, Junglee Games, Gameskraft and Pacific Games are among the petitioners who moved the high court questioning the recent amendment’s validity.
The division bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Awasthi and Justice Krishna Dixit is likely to pronounce its judgment this month.