Betting of ₹225 Crore on a Single TN Premier League Match on Betfair

The Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) of the BCCI has recently submitted a confidential report to the board, raising concerns about domestic T20 Leagues, highlighting betting of a sum of around Rs. 225 crore on a single small state level league match in India on the international betting website Betfair.

ACU, in its concern over betting on domestic T20 Leagues like TNPL, has even asked BCCI to consider shutting down such leagues.

The said report revealed to the board that a Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) T20 match this year between Tuti Patriots and Madurai Panthers saw betting of a whopping sum of Rs. 225 crore (approximately 24 million pounds) on betting exchange website Betfair, which incidentally geo-blocked access from Indian IP addresses earlier this year.

The report also states how Betfair, after receiving betting of such unusually high amount on a state-level Indian league, stopped taking any bets on matches involving the TNPL franchise Tuti Patriots.

As per an official of Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), the co-owners of Tuti Patriots were expelled on the advice of TNCA’s internal enquiry committee, as reported by The Indian Express.

ACU is also probing a case where a Mumbai Player raised a red fald over being approached by a team owner for spot-fixing in the T20 Mumbai League.

These incidents highlight the adverse entailments of the huge illegal and unbridled sports betting industry in India, which according to some estimates is worth more than $100 billion a year. In the past, questions have been raised and bills have been introduced in the Lok Sabha regarding the regulation of sports betting in the country.

Last year in July, the Law Commission of India submitted a Report titled ‘Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including in Cricket in India’  to the government, recommending making match fixing and sporting fraud criminal offences with stringent penalties. On a progressive note, the panel also suggested that an effective ban cannot be put on betting and gambling, then the parliament or state legislatures should consider legalising it with a strict regulatory framework and guidelines.

Based on these recommendations by the Law Commission, in December 2018, Congress MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member’s bill titled ‘Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018’  in the Lok Sabha to regulate sports betting and penalise match fixing. This bill aimed at preventing and penalising sports fraud in domestic and international events and overseeing and permitting online sports gaming through an effective regulatory and licensing framework.

So far, the cabinet’s response on this subject has unanimously noted that “Betting and Gambling” are State subjects and that individual state governments are free to take a decision on this matter.

A few months back, in an interview to Deccan Herald, Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju said that, ‘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.’

In the Lok Sabha, a few months back, when asked whether the government intends to ban online betting websites, Union Minister for Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that “Betting and Gambling” are State subjects as per the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. States/UTs are primarily responsible for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of crimes related to betting and gambling through their law enforcement machinery.

Gaming Legal & Regulatory

“Ban Online Games Like PUBG, Rummy and Blue Whale” – Congress MP Urges Centre

Shri H. Vasanthakumar, an Indian National Congress (INC) MP from Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu on Tuesday urged the government to ban online games such as Blue Whale, PUBG, and Rummy. He cited in Lok Sabha that such games have adverse effects on mental and physical health of children.

He, in an address to the Hon. Speaker of Lok Sabha on Tuesday, said ‘I urge upon the Government to ban the online games such as Blue Whale, PUBG, that is, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Rummy.”

“PUBG was launched in the year 2017 and has garnered a huge global following across PCs, consoles and mobile platforms. By last December, it (PUBG) had 200 million mobile downloads alone. A few cities in the Indian States have already banned the game, citing concerns that it was making player more violent and it also caused distraction among students from their studies,” he added.

He elaborated on concerns shown by parents on how computer games have no value in studies of children and how such games negatively affect children’s mental and physical development.

“Such a behaviour will lead them (children) spending most of their leisure time in playing computer games. Consequently, they will have minimal or almost no physical activity. This will lead to numerous health issues such as obesity, cardiac problem, and psychological disturbances, etc’” said Shri Vasanthakumar while showing concern about how horrible graphics and images from such games infiltrate children’s minds and cause adverse effects.

PUBG is a multiplayer online game developed and published by PUBG Corporation, which is a subsidiary of South Korean game developer and publisher Bluehole. The game is inspired by a Japanese film Battle Royale, in which a number of students are transported to an Island, where they have to battle each other to be the sole survivor.

After raising various concerns, the Congress MP urged the Centre, “Ban the online games, for the future of India.”

In 2018, rummy was banned in Telangana, after President of India, Ram Nath Kovind approved a new law passed by the Telangana legislature, which makes wagering or betting on games of skill like rummy illegal.
In the past, ministers and MLAs of the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have also raised issues of online rummy and gaming spoiling the lives of many educated and unemployed youth in the country, demanding a ban on online rummy.

Legal & Regulatory

SC dismisses rummy petition filed by Krida Sports, asks company to approach High Court first

A full bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Madan Lokur, Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta dismissed a writ petition filed by Chennai-based Krida Sports and Games Private Limited that wanted to run rummy clubs in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu and sought directions from the apex court to the police to refrain from interfering in rummy games.

The bench while disposing off the petition stated that the company was at liberty to approach the relevant state High Courts to seek appropriate relief if they so desired.

Krida Sports had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in May 2017 praying that rummy should be allowed to be played for stakes without any interference from the police.

The company, represented by Senior Advocate and eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee, had made the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and the Director General of Police of the three states respondents in its petition.

In July and August 2017, the company had approached the Supreme Court seeking leave to amend its petition to challenge the two ordinances issued by the Telangana government that banned playing rummy and other games of skill for stakes by removing the exemption granted to games of skill and specifically making betting or wagering on games of skill illegal.

On 1st September, the Supreme Court had in its order recorded that the proceedings in the Supreme Court would not impact the ongoing writ petitions filed by online rummy companies in the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Court challenging the two Telangana Gaming ordinances.

Meanwhile, the online rummy companies’ petitions in the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Court may come up for hearing in the next week. The court had earlier extended the interim relief granted to the rummy websites until 15th October allowing them to offer services to customers residing outside Telangana, even if the company offering the service is registered or located within the state.

Business Gaming

TVF partners with Rummy Circle for Tamil channel

Popular online video platform The Viral Fever (TVF) has announced that it will partner with online rummy website Rummy Circle for the launch of its new Tamil channel TVF Machi.

The new Tamil channel will have dubbed content of its popular Hinglish web series like Permanent Roommates and Pitchers. Rummy Circle will be the official brand partner of the TVF Machi video platform for the two web series, Permanent Roommates and Pitchers.  Rummy Circle will be integrated into various activations that TVF will do across platforms to promote the Tamil Version of the two web series.

The partnership with TVF  Machi comes just a few months after online rummy was banned through an ordinance in Telangana, the biggest rummy playing state in the country.

Commenting on the development, Sachin Uppal, Chief Marketing Officer of Play Games 24×7 Pvt. Ltd., the company that operates Rummy Circle said, “We believe local Indian content in local Indian languages is the right approach to engage and entertain Indian audiences. This partnership with TVF and one of the highest rated Web Series, TVF Pitchers, is a great step forward to spread awareness. The show talks about entrepreneurship and belief in your skills despite all challenges in life which is also the spirit of the Rummy game. A great Rummy player sticks to his skills and fights his way to the top.”

Soon after the ban by the Telangana government, rummy websites have re-calibrated their marketing and branding strategies by focusing on the other big rummy playing states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

While Rummy Circle seems to be focusing heavily on the Tamil Nadu market, another major website Junglee Rummy is targeting Hindi heartland states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi etc. by getting celebrity endorsements from Bollywood actors like Saurabh Shukla and Rajpal Yadav.

Legal & Regulatory

Petition in Supreme Court challenges Telangana gaming ordinances, police interference in rummy games in 3 states

Krida Sports and Games Pvt. Ltd., a Chennai-based company that wants to start rummy operations in Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has filed a civil writ petition in the Supreme Court. The petition states that rummy should be allowed to be played for stakes without any interference from the police.

As per records available on the Supreme Court website, a total of 19 parties have been made respondents by Krida Sports including the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and the Director General of Police of the three states.

The writ petition, filed in May 2017, came up for hearing before a bench of Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta, twice, on 3rd July and again on 8th August. While the petition was filed before the Telangana government passed two ordinances to amend the Gaming Act which made playing rummy for stakes illegal, the court allowed the company to amend their petition to challenge the constitutional validity of the two ordinances.

The Supreme Court has also issued notice to the respondents and will hear the contentions of the three state governments. Eminent jurist and former Attorney General of India, Soli Sorabjee, appeared for Krida Sports in both the hearings. The matter is likely to come up for hearing again on 1st September.

Saravanan Subramanian, Director of Krida Sports and Games confirmed over phone that his company had indeed filed the petition but refused to give further details of the points raised in the petition and the reasons why his company took the extraordinary measure of filing a petition directly in the Supreme Court, instead of approaching state high courts separately.

Legal & Regulatory

Tamil Nadu after Telangana? Chennai police, experts call for ban on online rummy

After the Telangana government passed two ordinances to ban online rummy and other games of skill in the state, it is possible that the Tamil Nadu government could introduce a similar law to ban skill games, as per a report in The Hindu.

The report further adds that the online rummy companies have shifted their focus to neighbouring Tamil Nadu and there has been increased promotional and advertising activities in the state by online rummy companies. It is likely that some companies may even have shifted their offices and servers to the state, the article notes.

The increased activity by online rummy companies in Tamil Nadu does not seem to have gone down well with officials in the Chennai police, as per the news report.

However, cyber crime officials in Chennai said that there have been no specific complaints pertaining to online rummy games so far.

“Besides, those who lose money won’t come forward to complain unless they feel cheated. Then, we have to register cases under Section 420 (of the Indian Penal Code) and the Information Technology Act,” The Hindu quotes an anonymous senior police official from Chennai.

As per the news report, the Chennai police does not agree with the argument that rummy is a game involving substantial degree of skill, despite a Supreme Court judgment to that effect. Officials state that there is an element of chance involved in the game and hence it cannot be played for stakes.

Chennai police officials however add that in the absence of a specific law to ban online gaming, they cannot do much and suggested that the Tamil Nadu government should introduce a law similar to the Telangana gaming ordinance.

“We haven’t got any concrete information about the presence of such servers. But we will coordinate with the Hyderabad police and get details. If the government bans the game, then we can introduce a penalty and imprisonment for those found guilty” the police officer adds.

The officer also added that if an ordinance is passed in Tamil Nadu, then, they can enter premises where they suspect online rummy is being played and conduct searches.

Gaming Legal & Regulatory

(IL)Legality of Pepsi's one crore jackpot prize and why this competition is not available in Tamil Nadu

Pepsi Co., one of the largest cold drinks manufacturers in India has introduced a prize competition in association with the popular Sony TV programme Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). The prize involves answering of a simple question given behind the label of Pepsi Co’s cold drink bottles and sending the right answer via SMS to the given number. One winner (to be picked by a random draw of lots) would be given a one crore rupees prize on the sets of KBC at the end of the period of the contest.

Unfair trade practice?

Pepsi has mentioned in its terms and conditions that the offer of the prize is not available in the state of Tamil Nadu. One may have noticed that schemes to win prizes such as these are offered by almost all consumer companies for promoting their products and increasing sales. Such schemes are becoming increasingly common with mobile operators sending SMSes to consumers urging them to participate in easy contests to stand a chance to win prizes and companies dealing in consumer goods holding lucky draw contests to distribute prizes to customers.

However, the legality of such competitions or schemes may be challenged under the Consumer Protection Act and the Lottery (Regulation) Act.

1. Does the Pepsi contest amount to a lottery?

Three essential elements have to be satisfied for an activity to be considered a lottery: prize, chance and mutual consideration. While prize and chance are certainly present in this contest (this contest being a predominant game of chance, since the extremely simple question is a mere qualification and cannot be said to involve a substantial degree of skill); it is quiet unclear whether there is an element of mutual consideration involved in the contest, i.e. whether the organisers (Pepsi Co.) is getting a share of the revenue from the SMS costs and using this collected amount to disburse prizes.

The terms and conditions laid down by Pepsi Co mention that the answer to the question has to be messaged to an ordinary mobile number and not a five digit special number. Thus it seems that only ordinary message charges will apply for sending the answers and the revenue from the SMSes will only go to the telephone operators and not Pepsi or KBC.

Thus, if the third element of mutual consideration is not fulfilled, then the contest cannot be said to be a lottery and hence the penal provisions of running an illegal lottery will not be applicable in this instance.

However, it must be noted that all companies holding contests where consumers are required to send answers to simple questions to special 5-digit numbers and the revenue from the SMS charges is shared by the contest-holding companies may be held to be illegal lotteries under the Lotteries (Regulation) Act 1998, Section 294-A of the Indian Penal Code and other state laws.

2. The Pepsi contest amounts to an unfair trade practice under the Consumer Protection Act

It is also apparent that this particular contest conducted by Pepsi amounts to an unfair trade practice under Section 2(1)(r) 3 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and Pepsi and all other contests held by companies would be liable to compensation to the consumers if a complaint is made to any district consumer forum.

Section 2(1) (r) 3 of the Consumer Protection Act reads as follows:

“unfair trade practice” means a trade practice which, for the purpose of promoting the sale, use or supply of any goods or for the provision of any service, adopts any unfair method or unfair or deceptive practice including any of the following practices, namely:

(3) permits-

(a) the offering of gifts, prizes or other items with the intention of not providing them as offered or creating impression that something is being given or offered free of charge when it is fully or partly covered by the amount charged in the transaction as a whole;

(b) the conduct of any contest, lottery, games of chance or skill, for the purpose of promoting, directly or indirectly, the sale, use or supply of any product or any business interest…

It is thus abundantly clear that all such contests or gift schemes organised by companies, which are obviously conducted with the intent of promoting products or services, would be within the ambit of unfair trade practices and could be shut down by the Consumer courts under Section 14(2) (f) of the Consumer Protection Act.

In fact a similar “Har Seat Hot Seat” contest organised by KBC in association with Airtel was held to be an unfair trade practice by the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum in Society Of Catalysts vs Star Plus Tv, Star India Pvt. Ltd (2008) and KBC/Airtel were asked to pay a compensation of Rs. 1 crore for their unfair practice.

3. Why such prize schemes are not available in Tamil Nadu?

The state of Tamil Nadu has passed a law The Tamil Nadu Prize Schemes (Prohibition) Act way back in 1979 which prohibits companies to give any prizes on the sale of products. Contravening these provisions is made a criminal offense where offenders may be punished with up to three years of imprisonment.

No other state in India has made a specific law banning prize schemes on products, similar to the Prize Schemes Act of Tamil Nadu. Companies have assumed that there would be no other laws prohibiting such schemes, forgetting the provisions in the Consumer Protection Act and the applicability of lottery laws to these competitions.

With inputs and suggestions from Ramanuj Mukherjee