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'Opposition mukt' Nagaland assembly unlikely to pass skill games bill in winter session



The Nagaland legislative assembly is unlikely to take up the  Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Bill, 2015 for consideration and passage in the current winter assembly starting December 14. Sources familiar with the matter indicate that the Bill may be taken up in the budget session in February or March next year.

It may be remembered that Nagaland was the first state in India to introduce a special legislation to regulate and license online skill games such as poker, rummy and fantasy sports. However, the Bill could not be taken up and passed in July due to opposition from the local media and powerful religious groups like the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), who asserted that regulating skill games would increase corruption and lead to detachment, depression and addiction.

Due to resistance from some quarters, the Bill was ultimately referred to a select committee of MLAs for its opinion.  The legislative assembly may either choose to make changes to the Skill Games Bill based on the select committee recommendations or shelve the idea completely depending on opinion from various stakeholders.

Interestingly, the TR Zeliang-led Nagaland government has support of all the 60 members of the legislative assembly as opposition MLAs recently crossed over to the Naga People Front (NPF)-led ruling coalition.  Consequently, there should be no difficulty in getting the Bill passed if the government chooses to put it to vote.

If the Skill Games Bill is passed it will be sent to the Governor for his assent. The Governor by convention normally accords his assent to a Bill but has the option of sending it for reconsideration of the legislative assembly or referring it to the President (and therefore the Central government). Thereafter the state government can start the process of framing rules and the licensing procedure.  Therefore, the entire process of regulation of online skill games is at least a year or two away from becoming a reality.

Jay has researched extensively on gaming laws and has been cited by various media houses and journals as an expert. He has helped leading newspapers in their stories on gaming laws. Jay completed his B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) degree from NUJS, Kolkata in 2015 and is currently based out of Mumbai.