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Turmoil and changes have kept the gaming sector on a constant wheel of change this past year. In Indian perspective, noises of the legal ambiguity and issues that surround poker, rummy and other games of chance seem to be reverberating loudly in the political corridors. After former Samajwadi Party leader and Member of Parliament (MP) Amar Singh raised a starred question on gaming and gambling, Thiruvananthapuram MPShashi Tharoor has now raked up the issue.
Tharoor has announced that he will be introducing a private member’s bill in the Parliament for the regulation of sports betting in the country.
The fact that there’s been a marked rise in the reported number of illegal gambling cases in the country also calls for establishment of a regulatory mechanism for gambling. In a recent incident that occurred in the Gaya district of Bihar, eight hospital employees were arrested for allegedly running a gambling ring in an under-construction building in a hospital complex. The accused were found playing ‘Twenty-Nine’, a popular but illegal card game.
In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder has put a spanner in the works for the legalization of online poker and other forms of online gambling in the U.S. state. Snyder vetoed the House Bill 4926 that was passed by both, Michigan’s House and Senate.
Back in Asia, the Chinese government has gone tougher on illegal gambling organisers who use social media platform WeChat to run informal gambling rings. Deputy Director of Research office of China’s Supreme People’s Court, Zhou Jiahai spelt out five guiding cases for severely punishing cyber crime.
We had previously reported that Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor would be introducing a private member’s bill in Parliament to regulate sports betting in the country. On December 28, the ports (Online Gaming & Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018 was presented by Tharoor in the Lok Sabha.
With the intention to establish an effective regime for maintaining the integrity of sports and regulation of online sports gaming, the salient features of the bill as reported in Glaws.in are as follows:
i) penalising match-fixing and manipulation of domestic and international sporting events
ii) creating an over-arching national regulatory and licensing framework for overseeing and permitting online sports gaming in the country, subject to numerous safeguards and guidelines.
The bill defines online sports gaming as the prediction of a result of a sporting event and betting on the whole or part of the consequence via a telecommunication device. Additionally, the Online Sports Gaming Commission is empowered under the proposed legislation to issue rules to impose various restrictions on betting on sports matches to ensure that people can engage in sports gaming in a limited manner.
Nonetheless, there are certain restrictions that can be levied on the commission which includes limiting access to online sports gaming websites to people of certain age groups like minors, the fees to be charged for betting, restriction on giving credit facilities for betting etc.
The Bill also makes a provision empowering the central government to allow, by notification, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) including foreign technological collaboration in licensed online sports gaming websites.
Dr. Tharoor stated in a tweet that the Bill introduced by him is ‘ an attempt to expand our freedoms’ and can become law only if the government of the day agrees to facilitate their enactment in Parliament.
Gambling seems to be on unsteady footing in the country. While gambling during leisure time can sometimes be frowned upon, indulging in the activity while on the job is extremely unwise.
Recently, the police in Gaya, Bihar received a tip about a gambling ring that was operating in a new building under construction in the hospital area. At the time of the raid, eight people who were all employees of the hospital were arrested for playing Twenty-Nine which is a popular, albeit illegal card game in Bihar.
The employees were arrested by the police and were all given court dates. However, the hospital refused to release their names. The hospital claimed the employees were doing nothing wrong because they were on break at the time of their arrests.
The U.S. state of Michigan was well on its way to implement three measures that would be have sent the ball rolling for legalisation of online poker and other forms of online gambling in the state. However, in a shocking move, outgoing Governor Rick Snyder has vetoed the primary legalisation bill, i.e. House Bill 4926. Not only this, Snyder has also vetoed the two other measures related to online poker legalisation.
Issuing a statement on his veto move, Snyder cited concerns about the cannibalism of business at the state-run lottery and land-based casinos of the state.
In his veto letter, Synder stated, “A significant amount of work went into these bills and getting them to a place where several stakeholders either expressed support or neutrality, and I appreciate that many pro-gaming stakeholders coalesced around these bills. However, due to largely unknown budgetary concerns, I believe this legislation merits more careful study and comparison with how other states have, or will, authorize online gaming. To be blunt, we simply don’t have the data to support this change at this time.
Synder also expressed concerns on the possible shift of gambling behavior from the state’s ILottery programme and loss of revenues on a shift from on-premises to online.
He added, “Finally, I am concerned that the bills will encourage gambling by making it much easier to do so. I do not think it is appropriate to sign legislation that will effectively result in more gambling, with a reasonable chance that the state could lose revenue that could be helpful in dealing with social service issues that are ordinarily attendant to increased gambling behavior.”
Reacting to Governor Synder’s veto, Representative Iden, who was the primary sponsor of House Bill 4926, said he was disappointed, but remained hopeful about the chances for the same legislation in 2019.
“The governor just vetoed bills,” Iden said, “I am surprised and disappointed. With this many stakeholders on board, it took us two years to get to this point, and it’s the first time in any state history that we had all the parties that were supportive of the bill (in agreement).”
With Governor Snyder’s veto of the house bill, the state of Michigan will not be joining the other U.S. states in offering a legalisation structure and environment for online poker anytime soon.
China has been tough on gambling this year. After declaring a ban on online poker in all forms including advertising for the same on social media, the Chinese Ministry of Culture and police have been actively seeking out setups found offering online poker illegally. This time around, China has tightened its stance against informal gambling rings that have been active on the social media platform, WeChat.
On Christmas, Deputy Director of Research office of China’s Supreme People’s Court, Zhou Jiahai spelt out five guiding cases for severely punishing cyber crime. Jiahai said that it was the “unshirkable statutory duty of the judiciary to severely punish cybercrime in accordance with the law and effectively maintain cybersecurity.”
Jiahai’s list includes informal groups active on WeChat, that seek profit “by inviting people to join the WeChat group to attract gamblers and by guessing the results of the game website, etc.”
He also identified the use of WeChat’s popular ‘red envelope’ money transfer service to facilitate gambling on the social network, as one of the prime targets for the Chinese government. This was, he added, potentially and seriously harmful to the Chinese society.
WeChat groups have become a popular platform used by China’s residents to engage in online gambling, which is forbidden in the country. It is also being used by gambling operators of livestream live game action from casinos outside China to specific WeChat groups for the purpose of remote gambling.
According to Jiahai, individuals who engage in such activities will now face the same punishments as those who operate illegal casinos under Article 303 of Criminal Law. Convicted individuals will face financial penalties and upto 10 years of life imprisonment.
The government in China has also urged the judiciary to refrain from being lenient when dealing with transgressors and thus “educate and guide the public to abide by the law and discipline.”