With celebrities promoting online rummy and massive advertisement campaigns being run to attract people to play the card game, which has allegedly pushed many into financial ruin and some to commit suicide as a result, the Kerala government has said it was considering amending its gaming laws to regulate such online games. The government had said in the state assembly that it was considering bringing in the amendment subject to the outcome of its appeal in the Kerala High Court against a single judge’s order quashing the ban on online rummy games played for money.
However, until that happens, various state departments, including the police, are conducting awareness programs in schools and colleges. Besides that, a social policing system, various schemes of student police cadets, and awareness campaigns through the media are also being implemented to prevent people from becoming addicted to such games, Vijayan. The CM was responding to a submission by UDF MLA A P Anilkumar that online rummy games played for money should be banned or restricted as it has allegedly pushed many in the state into financial burden and led others to commit suicide.
Vijayan said that online gaming sites make it easy for anyone, including children, to open an account to play such games, and people are lured by offers of huge prize money and other attractive prizes. The modus operandi of such sites is to first offer freebies to make people addicted to such games, and thereafter, motivate them to play more and spend more money. As people get hooked on the games, they have no clue whom they are playing against, and there are reports that artificial intelligence-based programs are often playing on the other side.
With an increase in popularity of online games like rummy, there has also been a rise in mobile apps offering loans as well as online loan advertisements, and those who lose money on the games take loans to continue playing, and it turns into a vicious cycle which allegedly leads them to financial ruin, the CM noted. The massive advertisement campaigns, especially using celebrities, are also not helping to keep people away from such games, he said, and added that the fact that some celebs are ready to withdraw from such advertisements was exemplary.
The state government had amended the Kerala Gaming Act of 1960 in February last year to ban online rummy games played for money, but the same was quashed by the High Court in September 2021 on pleas moved by gaming companies. An appeal against the single judge’s decision is pending before a division bench. He added that as there is currently no ban on online rummy, police are taking strong action against fraud and other cyber crimes committed in the name of online rummy games in accordance with the existing laws.