Representational Image
Representational Image

Chennai: A division bench of the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) on Wednesday asked the Tamil Nadu Government about the status of its proposal to ban online gambling which has claimed at least half a dozen lives in the State in recent weeks.

Justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi, who during a previous hearing had issued notices to celebrities, including Bollywood actors and cricketers, for promoting online gambling through advertisements, also directed the Centre to submit its stand on regulation of these games.

Last month, after some persons fell into a debt trap after losing money in online gambling and ended their lives, Tamil Nadu Additional Advocate General M Sricharan Rangarajan had informed the court that the State was actively considering banning online games.

Subsequently, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had announced that steps would be taken to ban online rummy and other such games.

The court on Wednesday asked if the State had taken any steps in this regard after the Chief Minister’s announcement.

The court is hearing a petition filed in public interest seeking a direction to the Central and State Governments to ban online gambling.

Among the celebrities to whom the court had earlier ordered notices be issued included cricketer Virat Kohli, former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly and actors Tamannah Bhatia and Prakash Raj, who were brand ambassadors of some of the online gambling websites.

Referring to celebrity endorsements of online games, the court observed: "... All these people, celebrities, are becoming ambassadors for these kinds of things. And we are told that one cricketer has got so many followers - if he appears in an advertisement, ten thousands will follow. In our country, hero-worshipping is there...and in Tamil Nadu, cinema (actor) means finished... Even if one person who has acted in a movie (endorses such games) - immediately, he will become the future of Tamil Nadu."

The court had last month pointed out that some States such as Odisha, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Nagaland had either banned online gaming or regulated them.

The Additional Advocate General told the court that the State is working out the modalities for introducing such a law. Since the Assembly is not in session, the law may have to be introduced through an Ordinance. He added that the court may record his statement that the law will be passed and that the State is navigating the manner in which it should be done.

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