India esports athletes’ body EPWA has urged the Tamil Nadu government to recognise skill games as a distinct sport, not club it along with gambling, and provide safe harbour for professional players, a senior official of the entity said on Friday. “We have sent representation to the state government on August 13. We have requested the Tamil Nadu government to recognise skill games as a distinct sport and not club it along with gambling and provide safe harbour for professional players,” Esports Players Welfare Association (EPWA) Director Shivani Jha told PTI.
The Madras High Court had in August last year struck down a recent amendment made to the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, passed in 1930, which imposed a ban on online gaming of rummy and poker with stakes. The bench declared Part II of the TN Gaming & Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, as unconstitutional which banned betting or wagering in cyberspace and also games of skill if played for a wager, bet, money or other stakes.
The bench, however, granted liberty to the state to pass another legislation, without any lacunae.
Tamil Nadu has set up a committee under the chairmanship of retired Justice K Chandru for advising on enacting fresh legislation on online games. The state government has invited inputs from various stakeholders for new legislation.
Chess Grandmaster Ankit Rajpara in support of online gamers sought the intervention of the central government in the ban imposed by states. “In the past, the central government has given comfort to players in stakeholder meetings that we will not be treated as criminals, however, state governments continue to do the opposite,” Rajpara said.
Jha said multiple legislations and putting skill-based games in the same bucket as gambling is leading to the criminalisation of skill-based players.
“While India is participating in international tournaments and developers are making new games, it is imperative for the state to regulate online skill-based gaming. Moreover, courts have repeatedly pronounced judgments stating the state government can only make laws on online gambling and not gaming, this ends up putting players at risk and equating them with gamblers and criminals,” she said.