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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Kiren Rijiju non-committal on sports betting legalisation

Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju in an interview given to daily Deccan Herald last week, appeared to not give any clear answer on the issue of rampant betting in sports and whether it should be legalised.

The Sports Minister in his reply to a question on sports betting in the interview, noted that his ministry, whenever it is made aware about it, tries to imposed a crackdown on illegal betting activities. He also noted that different states have to be taken on board before a decision can be taken on the issue.

He told Deccan Herald, “These are things that have a bearing on society. For example, in many countries, consuming alcohol is banned. We have always had a major crackdown on gambling. Whenever we are aware of it, we don’t allow it. But I agree that some cases remain off the hook. The ministry will have to consult different States before taking a call on this. The scenarios are different in different States. Like Sikkim has permitted casinos. As I said, whatever we decide, will have a bearing on society.”

Rijiju’s stance is similar to the written replies given by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to a query in the Lok Sabha few months ago, on banning online betting websites. Prasad had stated that betting and gambling are state subjects and that individual state governments are free to take a decision on the matter.

Last year, the Law Minister had on a few occasions stated that the 276th report of the Law Commission of India, which had recommended legalising betting as one of the alternatives, was under consideration of the government, without giving any definitive details about whether the government intends to take any action on the issue.

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Legal & Regulatory

Govt replies to Amar Singh’s query on legalising gambling

The central government has tabled a statement in parliament in reply to Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh’s query on legalising gambling and betting.

Union Minister of Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad tabled a statement in the Rajya Sabha on 14th December stating that the Law Commission of India has categorically stated that legalising gambling and betting is not desirable in the present scenario and a complete ban must be ensured. Further, Prasad stated that the commission has added that if a complete ban cannot be ensured, then parliament and state legislatures should consider legalising gambling and betting with certain regulations and safeguards.

Singh had last week raised a starred question in the upper house demanding to know whether the Law Commission had recommended legalising gambling and betting and the action taken by the government in relation to the Law Commission’s recommendations.

The Law Minister in his statement laid out in the Rajya Sabha did not respond to Singh’s query on the action taken  or proposed by the government in relation to regulating sports betting.

Since the Rajya Sabha session on Friday was adjourned due to disruptions by some members, supplementary oral questions could not be asked to follow-up on the minister’s response.

It may be noted that the central government had given a similar response to queries on the Law Commission report raised by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members in the monsoon session of parliament earlier this year.

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Legal & Regulatory

Amar Singh raises starred question on legalising betting and gambling in Rajya Sabha

Exclusive Independent Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) and former Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh has raised a starred question on legalisation of gambling and betting in the Rajya Sabha.

Singh in his question has asked Union Minister for Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad to state whether the Law Commission of India has sent a proposal to legalise gambling and betting in the country.

He has further asked for the details of the Law Commission’s proposal and action proposed to be taken by the government on the Law Commission’s suggestions.

The starred question raised by Singh is scheduled to be answered by the Law Minister on 14th December. Members can also ask follow-up questions to the oral response that is required to be given by the government to starred questions.

In the monsoon session of Parliament held in July this year, two Rajya Sabha MPs, AIADMK’s Vijila Sathyananth  and Kerala Congress (Mani’s) Jose K. Mani had also raised similar starred questions.

Since the house did not function properly, a written response tabled by Prasad at the time stated that the Law Commission of India’s 276th report on gambling and betting and its recommendations are under consideration of the government.

In the same session of parliament, Union Minister of State for Law and Justice PP Chaudhary had given a similar response to the queries of six Lok Sabha MPs on the Law Commission’s recommendations and proposed steps to be taken by the government.

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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Six Lok Sabha MPs ask govt about betting legalisation, minister gives written reply

Six Members of Parliament (MPs) of the Lok Sabha raised an unstarred question in Parliament today on the central government’s plan to legalise and regulate betting and gambling in the country.

The six parliamentarians, R. Gopalakrishnan, C. Gopalakrishnan, K. Maragatham, P. Nagarajan (all from AIADMK); Raksha Khadse and Narendra Sawaikar (both from BJP) asked the government seven questions in relation to the Law Commission’s recommendation to regulate gambling and allow foreign investment in the casino sector as well as caps on bets and other proposed restrictions. The parliamentarians also sought to know the government’s reaction to the Law Commission’s suggestions.

PP Chaudhary, the Union Minister of State for Law, Justice and Corporate Affairs in a written response tabled in the Lok Sabha reiterated the Law Commission’s clarificatory press note which stated that legalising gambling and betting in India is not desirable in the present scenario, and that a complete ban on unlawful gambling and betting must be ensured .

He further added that the Law Commission’s report is under consideration of the government. The reply is very similar to Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s response to the Rajya Sabha last week on the Law Commission’s betting legalisation recommendations and the central government’s response.

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Legal & Regulatory

Ravi Shankar Prasad says Law Commission report on betting under consideration, tables statement in RS

Exclusive Union Minister for Law & Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a statement tabled in the Rajya Sabha has stated that the 276th Law Commission report on betting and gambling is ‘under consideration of the Government.’

The minister also referred to the clarificatory press note issued by the Law Commission stating that it had strongly and categorically recommended that legalising gambling and betting is not recommended in the present scenario.

Prasad’s statement also ennumerates various safeguards suggested by the law panel in case the state or central government’s decide to regulate these activities (full text of the Law Minister’s statement reproduced at the end of this article).

The Union Law Minister issued the statement in response to a starred question from AIADMK MP Vijila Sathyananth who asked whether the Law Commission has recommended regulation of gambling as the only viable option. She also sought to know if the commission had recommended cap on the number of bets that can be placed and other safeguards.

Prasad laid a similar statement on another question on the Law Commission’s recommendations that was raised by Kerala Congress (M) member Jose K. Mani.

Since an unscheduled parliamentary holiday was declared on 27th July and on account of disruptions in the upper house of parliament thereafter, a discussion on supplementary questions to the starred question could not take place.

Law Commission report on regulation of gambling in sports
112 . Smt. Vijila Sathyananth
(a) whether it is a fact that the Law Commission has submitted a report to the Government proposing that since it is impossible to stop illegal gambling, the only viable option left is to regulate gambling in sports;(b) if so, the details thereof;

(c) whether it is also a fact that the Panel wants the Government to introduce a cap on the number of gambling transactions for each individual; and

(d) if so, the details thereof?

ANSWER
ANSWER

MINISTER OF LAW & JUSTICE AND ELECTRONICS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
(SHRI RAVI SHANKER PRASAD)

(a) to (d) A statement is laid on the Table of the House.

STATEMENT REFFERED TO IN RESPECT OF RAJYA SABHA STARRED QUESTION NO. *112 DATED 27TH JULY , 2018

(a) & (b) The Law Commission of India submitted its 276th report titled “Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including in Cricket in India” to Government on 05.07.2018. In 276th report and press note for clarification uploaded on Law Commission of India’s official website the Commission clarifies that vide para 9.7 of the report on page 115, it has been strongly and categorically recommended that legalising betting and gambling in india in the present scenario is not desirable , and that a complete ban on unlawful betting and gambling must be ensured. Again vide para 9.8, it has been recommended that effective regulation remains the only viable option to control gambling, if it is not possible to enforce a complete ban in order to prevent unlawful activities and the commission has recommended a number of guidelines and safeguards, in the event Parliament or the State Legislatures decide to regulates to these activities.

(c) and (d) Law Commission of India recommended/suggested on page no.116 in para 5 of the Chapter IX that Gambling and betting, if any should be offered only by Indian licensed operators from India possessing valid licences granted by the game licensing authority. For participants, there must be a cap on the number of transactions an individual can indulge in these activities in a specific period, i.e, monthly, half-yearly or yearly. The nature of stakes should be restricted to money with a linkage of PAN card and Aadhaar card, and the betting amount should be prescribed by law having an upper limit on the amount one can legally stake in gamble, which may be on the basis of the deposit, winnings or losses. The said report is under consideration of the Government.

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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Legal eagles advocate regulating sports betting, endorse Lodha committee recommendations

The Lodha committee report has rightly sparked a discussion on legalising gambling and sports betting in the country. Last week, editorials in all major newspapers and periodicals supported Justice Lodha’s idea stating that the reform is long overdue and that the government should take the initiative at the earliest.

Today, as per a report by news agency IANS, India’s top five lawyers in the Supreme Court: Harish Salve, CA Sundaram, Dushyant Dave and Kapil Sibal fully supported legalising gambling and sports betting.

Harish Salve, who is arguably India’s top lawyer and the former solicitor general of India said that legalising betting was an ‘excellent idea’.

Former Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal said that legalised betting will be much better than unregulated and illegal betting but added a caveat that it was his personal opinion.

Prashant Bhushan advocate and social activist said, “”There must be a good reason for Lodha Committee to recommend that betting should be made legal. It is taking place de facto. Betting under an illegal situation gives rise to a mafia.”

Dushyant Dave, current President of the Supreme Court Bar Association also endorsed the views of his fellow bar members. “This is hypocrisy…. Virtually in every other democratic country betting is legal. Making it legal would remove unnecessary evils and false persecution and prosecution. It would generate a healthy trend towards gaming and will be well regulated” Dave is quoted to have been said.

CA Sundaram, eminent lawyer and counsel for BCCI noted that, “Betting on sports is done all over the world through legal channels. It is normally accepted behaviour and pattern to bet on sports. Not making it legal results only in making normally law abiding people act in an illegal manner.” Sundaram also added that legalising betting will fetch vast amounts of revenue for the government.

Another eminent senior counsel and Rajya Sabha MP KTS Tulsi had also earlier said that gambling should be legalised and raised an unstarred question in Parliament in November 2014.

Despite the prodding by the country’s top lawyers and other experts, Union Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda did not appear to be inclined to support legalising betting and gambling saying that such activities should be curtailed. Interestingly, former Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal who is now supporting regulating gambling avoided taking a stand on the issue during his tenure as a cabinet minister.

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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Union Law Minister refuses to support sports betting legalisation, says time not ripe

In the midst of the growing clamour to legalise sports betting in India in light of the Justice Lodha Committee recommendations, Union Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda, in an interview to Economic Times has said that efforts should be taken to ‘eliminate’ betting instead of legalising it. Gowda further added that betting legalisation can be thought at a later stage indicating that the issue was not on the government’s agenda at the present moment.

Here is Gowda’s exact response to the question posed by Economic Times.

Q. The Lodha committee has recommended that betting in cricket be legalised. What is your view on this?

Gowda: The suggestion can be considered if at all we are unable to curtail it (betting). The present rules provide for elimination (of betting) to a large extent. We should, as of now, go ahead with the elimination before considering its legalisation.

Gowda’s assertion that the present rules provide for ‘elimination of betting to a large extent’ is rather surprising and indicates that he has not done preliminary research on the subject. The existing gaming statutes are vague and ambiguous with most persons accused of gambling or betting being let off with a fine of few hundred rupees. In  fact, according to some interpretations and as a Delhi district court recently noted, cricket betting may fall within the ‘games of skill’ exemption and therefore may not even be a criminal offence.

Secondly, since gambling and betting is a state subject, it would have been more appropriate if Gowda just responded saying that the issue should be decided by individual state governments rather than taking a definitive stand. Nevertheless, Gowda’s response indicates that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which with its allies  is in power in at least 12 states, is  not keen to take up the issue of gambling legalisation anytime in the near future.

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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Information relating to gambling and lottery legislations cannot be disclosed: Government in response to an RTI query

I had filed an application under the Right to Information Act (RTI) with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, Department of Legal Affairs to bring clarity and clear confusion on different aspects of gambling and lottery legislations. However the Public Information officer (PIO) refused to disclose any information.

Details of the information sought

1)   Kindly give full details regarding the list of laws (including State and Central legislations, notifications, rules, bye-laws, ordinances etc.) regulating gambling and lotteries in India.

2)   Kindly give details regarding the laws (including State and Central legislations, notifications, rules, bye-laws, ordinances etc.) which either legalise or ban online gambling. What is the position of law on financing/participating in online gambling, including gambling on websites based outside India in all the States of India (individually)?

3)   Kindly give details of any notifications/advise/references to advise/notes/ reports given by your department to any other department, ministry or organisation with regard to recommendations or any other information which your department may have relating to passing, modifying, repealing or amending any legislation or changing/amending any existing legal provision on gambling, betting and lotteries, including online gambling.

4)    Are there any special provisions created for the State of Sikkim to conduct/authorise the conduct of lotteries? If yes, kindly give full details. What are the legal provisions for allowing casinos, gambling and betting in the State of Sikkim?

5)    What is the legal provision that allows lotteries from the Kingdom of Bhutan to be sold in India? Are lotteries from companies based outside India allowed to be sold/marketed/promoted in India? Kindly give full details of provisions regarding the same.

6)   What is the difference between betting, gambling and lotteries? What opinion, if any has been given by your department in that regard?

7)   Kindly give all relevant documents which your department may have, regarding any recommendation, report, note, references to advise or any other information relating to the amendment, modification or repeal of Section 30 of the Indian Contract Act, 1860.

Reasons given for denial of information

The PIO while denying information gave two reasons for denying information:

1)   Information sought amounts to legal opinion and is not covered within the ambit of ‘information’ under Section 2 (f) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

2)   The subject matter of the information does not fall under the purview of the Department of Legal Affairs.

Why the denial of information is unfair

The reasons given by the PIO for denying information is unjust and against public interest.

Firstly, the details sought by the RTI application does not ask for the legal opinion of the Department of Legal Affairs but seeks opinion and advices given by the Legal affairs department to other Departments and Ministries:  Opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, reports, logbooks, electronic records etc. are all included under the definition of ‘information’ in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act. Thus the PIO has misinterpreted my queries and wrongly construed my questions on the opinion rendered by the concerned department as asking for a legal opinion. And even if certain questions may not fall under the ambit of ‘information’ under the RTI that does not absolve the PIO from providing details relating to other questions.

The second contention of the matter not falling under the purview of the Legal Affairs Department also seems unsatisfactory. Under Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act, it is the duty of the concerned department to transfer the application to other public authorities in case the information is held by another public authority or the subject matter of the information is closely connected with any other public authority.

Further, one of the primary functions of the Department of Legal Affairs is to advise and recommend reforms in legislations to other Ministries and Departments. The Legal Affairs department is also responsible for writing consultation papers and suggesting reforms.  (As per their website http://lawmin.nic.in/more.htm)

What next?

I am now going to appeal to the Central Information Commission requesting the release of the information.  The information sought by me may be essential in clearing doubts regarding the legality of online gambling and certain dubious issues on gambling and lottery legislations. It must also be noted that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of this information. I hope that the response to the RTI query will clear many ambiguities and confusions.  Will post subsequent developments and responses.

Sincerely hoping to receive your wholehearted support in my endeavour to bring about reforms, transparency, accountability and clarity…