March 18, 2016
Nagaland, a small state in northeast India, has become the first Indian state to approve online skill games legislation, which could authorize the licensing of real-money online poker, rummy and fantasy sports sites.
Last July, Chief Minister TR Zeilang introduced the Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion of Online Games of Skill Bill, 2015, The bill specifically defines gambling as “wagering or betting on games of chance” while exempting games “where there is preponderance of skill over chance.”
Nagaland politicians sought further study of the bill by a select committee, which delivered its report to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday. The Morung Express reported that the committee claimed to be satisfied with both the bill’s legalities and its potential for revenue generation, and thus unanimously recommended the bill be passed.
GLaws.in reported that the bill now requires only the state governor’s signature to become law, after which the government will begin drafting regulations and licensing details, a process that is expected to take a few months.
The legislation’s broad definition of ‘games of skill’ includes games where said skill “relates to strategizing the manner of placing wagers or placing bets or where the skill lies in team selection or selection of virtual stock based on analyses or where the skill relates to the manner in which the moves are made, whether deployment of physical or mental skill and acumen.”
The bill is based on Indian court rulings that have found the playing of games of skill “with or without stake to be a genuine business venture and not amounting to gambling.”
CM Zeilang made no bones about the bill’s primary objective being “earning revenue for the state government by way of licensing fees and royalty.”
Sadly, the bill won’t likely generate much in the way of revenue for the state, given its population of just under 2m. Soliciting business from other Indian states could prove dicey, given that India’s Supreme Court recently upheld the right of state governments to prevent out-of-state online lotteries from beaming their signals across state lines.
Nagaland’s legislation follows the state of Sikkim’s recent launch of ‘online’ gambling via digital terminals in local betting shops. The equally population-challenged Sikkim’s digital operations are also confined within its borders but the hope is that as more states take some kind of digital plunge, pressure will mount on the central government to craft a national strategy that drags India’s gambling business kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
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