Online gambling has been in a state of contestation for so long in India. Some states have imposed on a ban on it, while others like Kerala are still fighting to ban it. The Kerala High Court issued notices to Indian cricketer Virat Kohli, actors Tamanna Bhatia and Aju Varghese while seeking a plea to ban online gambling. These well-known personalities are ambassadors of online gambling games, which makes it even more problematic.
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Film director Pauly Vadakkan had filed a Public Interest Litigation through Advocate Jommy K Thomas stating that ‘online rummy’ games should be made unlawful and illegal to use. These games, when promoted by celebrities, attract people to play under the pretext of ‘winning big’ even though the chances of winning are slim. Many youngsters, especially, have fallen into this fraud trap, and have found themselves loaded with debt. The increase in suicide rates because of the inability to repay the enormous debt has raised red alarms. Depression over losing money while gambling online is yet another rising problem in the country
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The petition stated that “These platforms that are even endorsed by celebrities to attract their audience with false promise, easily making a fool of unsuspecting people. Primary targets will be middle to low-income people who are enticed to make easy money. People fall prey to these fraud platforms only to lose what is left of their life’s savings. There have been reports of such scams from across the state.” The petition also mentioned that the Kerala Gaming Act 1960 does not have any legal proceedings with regards to online gambling or betting.
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A division bench, headed by Chief Justice S Manikumar, understood the seriousness of this issue. They have thus issued notices to celebrities like Virat Kohli, Tamanna Bhatia and Aju Varghese who have featured as the face of many online gambling apps. They have been told to respond within 10 days. In fact, the Kerala HC has also issued a notice to the Kerala Government.
Online gambling in Kerala is a very grey area. Thus, it has many loopholes. It thrives on taking advantage of people’s poor status by falsely encouraging them to play so that they can earn an extra buck.