The Andhra Pradesh government has declared online gambling in the state illegal after months of pressure and recent speculation that Chief Minster Y. S Reddy would act against online rummy and other games.
State Information Minister Perni Venkataramaiah announced the decision after a Cabinet meeting. The government will amend the AP Gaming Act of 1974 by making online gambling a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
However, perhaps in a nod to the difficulty of enforcing such a ban, the government will make no attempt to censor or block access to online gambling apps or websites. Players will still be able to access these services but now face prosecution if caught.
Venkataramiah said at a press conference that under the new laws organisers of online gambling activity could be jailed for a year, and two years for repeat violations. Players can be jailed for six months.
The minister added: "There are a lot of companies that are offering gambling services online. They are taking our youth on the wrong path. This is why the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government has decided to make illegal all gambling activity like rummy and poker." A government order will be issued in the coming days.
Fantasy sports will not be covered under this legislation with Kumar Vishwajeet, principal secretary at the state home department, seemingly in agreement that these constitute games of skill rather than betting. Although confusingly, popular games like ludo that offers cash prizes for stakes could fall foul of the new legislation.
Vishwajeet said: "We are not bothered about chance or anything. If betting is involved, money is involved, it will be in the purview of this amendment."
Ultimately, though, this law appears to be a political move in response to growing opposition against the likes of online rummy by families and prominent figures like CPI state secretary K Ramakrishna and Dr S. Ramadoss, who have called for action against online gaming recently.