After the IPL 2022 auction, why all eyes will be on the Karnataka High Court

It was an eventful first day of the IPL 2022 auction in Bangalore on Saturday. Teams splurged on their favorite cricketers as young men like Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer and Shardul Thakur laughed their way to their banks after winning lucrative multi-crore deals.

More Cricket News | IPL Auction 2022 Live

Sunday will see another day of the IPL Mega Auction and more players will get rich. But on Monday, all eyes will be on the Karnataka High Court. A decision will be made on Karnataka’s ban on online gambling. The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021, notified on October 5 last year, had made all forms of gambling, including online, a recognizable and non-bailable offence.

Monday’s decision will have a significant impact on stakeholders involved in cricket in India, especially platforms that run fantasy sports. A decision in favor of online gambling (read: real money gambling), will be a huge boost for those who make money from cricket.

Money and sports related legalities are at an interesting time. The recent Karnataka High Court judgment which quashed criminal charges against cricketers and bookmakers responsible for fixing Karnataka Premier League (KPL) matches also made some interesting observations which could pave the way for betting legal sportsmen in the country.

Judge Sreenivas Harish Kumar, in his judgment quashing criminal charges against certain bookmakers accused of spot-fixing, noted that since “cricket is a sport and therefore even if betting takes place, it cannot be placed within of the ‘games’ found in the Police Act of Karnataka.’

Skill vs. Chance: Blurred Distinction

The view that betting on cricket and other sports does not constitute gambling under state gaming and betting laws stems from the age-old distinction that “games of simple skill” are exempted from the scope of gambling or betting under most state laws (gambling and betting is a state matter, but it is unclear whether gambling online address are within the domain of the state governments or the Center).

The Supreme Court in 1967 observed that the card game of rummy is not a simple game of chance and involves various skills such as creating sequences and memorizing the falling and falling of cards. It thus ruled that rummy is a game of skill and does not fall within the scope of gambling and betting.

In 1996, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that horse racing was a game involving a preponderant degree of skill and that betting or betting on it therefore also involves skill and does not fall within the ambit of gambling or gambling. ‘silver.

It is in citing this Supreme Court judgment on horse racing that many jurists such as the retired Chief Justice of Punjab and High Court of Haryana and the chairman of the committee to investigate the fixing scam, Judge Mukul Mudgal held that since cricket or other sports are games of skill, betting on them would not be an offense under national gaming laws.

Sreesanth was banned by BCCI for corruption during IPL 2013. (Photo: BCCI)

The Karnataka High Court in its recent judgment seems to have affirmed and ratified this view. A similar ruling was also made by the Extra Sessions Judge at Patiala House Court, New Delhi, in 2015 as he cleared former Indian cricketer S. Sreesanth and 35 others from criminal charges.

Extra Sessions Judge Neena Krishna Bansal in her 2015 judgment also said various skills such as hand-eye coordination, stamina, strength and mental agility. Thus, it was held that since cricket is a game of skill, betting on the game would not constitute an offence.

Unconstitutional?

It can however be noted that after Karnataka police filed indictments against former trophy cricketers Ranji CM Gautam and Abrar Qazi, the state government amended its gaming law, the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act in 2021, to expand the definition of gambling, to include risking money on any unknown occurrence including games of skill as an offence. Additionally, playing online games, including games of skill involving betting or wagering, has also become an offence.

Interestingly, petitions from several online gaming companies and industry bodies challenging the constitutional validity of these amendments, on the grounds that betting on games of skill, as ruled by the Supreme Court , fall within the constitutionally guaranteed right to trade, and that a complete ban on such activities is arbitrary and unconstitutional have been filed in the Karnataka High Court. Thus, Monday’s viewership is perhaps more important to the cricket ecosystem which has strong ties to online gambling and betting companies.

Notably, similar amendments to its Gambling Act passed by the Tamil Nadu government were struck down by the Madras High Court in August 2021 on the grounds that a comprehensive and comprehensive ban on betting or betting on games of skill is manifestly arbitrary, paternalistic, disproportionate and a violation of the right to trade and commerce.

An appeal against this decision is currently pending before the Supreme Court, which will ultimately have to make a final decision on the correct interpretation of its previous decisions regarding horse racing and rummy betting, the scope and meaning of gambling. skill and whether states can completely ban games of skill, whether played for stakes or wagers.

Is it time to legalize sports betting?

In the absence of a conclusive verdict from the Supreme Court, some ambiguity prevails as to whether betting on cricket is prohibited under the current gambling laws of most states and whether state governments have the constitutional power to restrict betting on games of skill.

India's head coach Rahul Dravid is in favor of legalizing sports betting (Photo: BCCI)India’s head coach Rahul Dravid is in favor of legalizing sports betting (Photo: BCCI)

However, many politicians, jurists, bureaucrats and sportsmen such as retired Indian Chief Justice RM Lodha, former cricketer Rahul Dravid, former CBI director Ranjit Sinha and parliamentarians Shashi Tharoor and KTS Tulsi as well as the 276th Report of the Law Commission of India have suggested regulating sports betting under a licensing regime with a view to generating revenue for the treasury, weeding out unscrupulous elements of the business , create jobs and ensure transparency of betting patterns, thus facilitating the investigation of cases of match manipulation.

According to experts, even at conservative estimates, licensing and regulating the activity under the GST would bring in at least INR 20,000 crore in revenue to the treasury every year. It is high time for the central government to take a serious look at the issue and engage in a dialogue with stakeholders on whether to regulate sports betting and adopt a considered position. (End)

(The author is a technology and gaming lawyer. Opinions expressed are personal).

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