PM Narendra Modi Warns Against Addiction, Will It Impact Real Money Gaming Operators?

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At a time when the online gaming industry is gripped by both hope and despair, a crucial Supreme Court hearing on Monday could decide the future of fantasy sports in India and provide a cue to top lawyers arguing relentlessly in favour of Real Money Gaming.

A Supreme Court Bench, led by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice KM Joseph and Justice BR Gavai, will hear the “Avinash Mehrotra vs the State of Rajasthan” case that has been a thorn in the flesh for top fantasy cricket operator, Dream11.

Even as the debate between ‘skill’ and ‘chance’ have been raging for more than two years now, courts have maintained an ambivalent position when wagering and profit is involved in ‘skill’ games.

Mehrotra’s lawyers have steadfastly wanted the Supreme Court to declare fantasy and RMG as gambling, but the likes of Dream11, online rummy and poker operators like Junglee and MPL, have been fighting tooth and nail in various courts without any luck.

Justice Nariman is well aware of the fantasy sports scenario. He had heard this great ‘conflict’ no less than three times and every time, Justice Nariman has contemptuously dismissed those wanting fantasy to be consigned to the realms of ‘chance’ and hence, in the purview of betting and gambling.

à¤ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂœितनà¥Â‡ भà¥Â€ à¤Â‘नलाà¤Â‡न या डिà¤ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂœिà¤ÂŸल à¤Â—à¥Â‡मà¥Âस à¤Â†à¤ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂœ मारà¥Âà¤Â•à¥Â‡à¤ÂŸ मà¥Â‡à¤Â‚ à¤Â‰पलबà¥Âध हà¥Âˆà¤Â‚, à¤Â‰नमà¥Â‡à¤Â‚ सà¥Â‡ à¤Â धिà¤Â•तर à¤Â•ा à¤Â•à¥Â‰नà¥Âसà¥Â‡पà¥Âà¤ÂŸ भारतà¥Â€य नहà¥Â€à¤Â‚ हà¥Âˆ।

à¤Â†प भà¥Â€ à¤ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂœानतà¥Â‡ हà¥Âˆà¤Â‚ à¤Â•ि à¤Â‡समà¥Â‡à¤Â‚ à¤Â नà¥Â‡à¤Â• à¤Â—à¥Â‡मà¥Âस à¤Â•à¥Â‡ à¤Â•à¥Â‰नà¥Âसà¥Â‡पà¥Âà¤ÂŸ या तà¥Â‹ Violence à¤Â•à¥Â‹ पà¥Âरमà¥Â‹à¤ÂŸ à¤Â•रतà¥Â‡ हà¥Âˆà¤Â‚ या फिर Mental Stress à¤Â•ा à¤Â•ारण बनतà¥Â‡ हà¥Âˆà¤Â‚: PM @narendramodi — PMO India (@PMOIndia) June 24, 2021

What adds context to Monday’s hearing is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s observation on online games that add mental stress to the younger generation. Public responses to PM Modi’s tweets have been largely against real money gaming and on products like PUBG that incite violence.

Industry related bodies like the All India Gaming Federation and the ESports Federation of India have been diplomatic and defensive. Associations like AIGF and ESFI, autonomous in nature, have functioned in silos and have not been able to unify the largely each-his-own operators.

“PM Modi has set the cat among the pigeons and he has surely taken note of what’s going on across the country. This is the first time the PM has shown interest in this sector.

“He will surely stand a moral high ground and his recent speeches on Mann Ki Baat have urged the youth to abstain from drugs, alcohol, tobacco. Anything close to gambling will surely not find favour with the Prime Minister, who is against any form of addiction,” said a industry source.

The Niti Aayog had shown some inclination last year to inject some order into a largely unregulated online gaming business. But it’s approach seemed skewed towards fantasy sports.

We need to ban such gaming apps, especially those which promote gambling. — ASHWANI MAHAJAN (@ashwani_mahajan) June 24, 2021

Most companies who operate in the RMG space objected to Niti Aayog’s intentions of being partisan towards fantasy sports. Finally, Niti Aayog lost steam and the matter reached the PMO.

Top operators, with deep pockets, have tried to grab eyeballs (and subscribers) by hook or by crook. And helping them in their pursuit have been India’s top celebrities, especially former Indian cricket captains.

Almost all companies broke standard ethics while advertising their products through commercials on TV and digital. They had to be disciplined by the I&B ministry. Even then, companies have found ways to lure all age-groups to play real money games.

Operators like Dream11, MPL and Games 24x7 have invested millions into cricket, India’s No. 1 sport by a distance. Led by former skipper MS Dhoni, almost the entire Indian cricket team endorses Dream11.

MPL, a poker giant with massive interests in the fantasy space, dresses up India’s cricket teams. Current captain Virat Kohli is an MPL brand ambassador. MPL are looking for an image makeover and has associated itself with the Indian Olympic Association.

Since April 24, 2019, ever since Gurdeep Singh Sachar filed a PIL in Bombay High Court alleging that Dream11 is involved in GST evasion by not paying tax on entry fees and face value of bets and is running games of chance/gambling, the matter has never been heard at length and with conviction.

Strikingly, a division Bench of Bombay High Court comprising Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre had dismissed Sachar’s case on April 30 without hearing the central government or issuing notice.

Several applications in 2020 asking for a review of the April 30 order by Bombay High Court drew a blank. Judges have resolutely refused to probe Dream11’s nature of business and the operator has only grown popular by leveraging its association with Indian cricket and live events like an IPL.

Significantly on January 31, 2020, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Nariman, dismissed Sachar’s miscellaneous application filed on January 24, saying the only scope to review before Bombay High Court is with respect to GST and not to revisit the issue of gambling involved in fantasy cricket.

However on March 6, 2020, a Special Leave Petition filed by the Maharashtra government on Dream 11’s tax evasion, for the first time, was not listed in Justice Nariman’s court. The matter was adjudicated by a three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice Gavai and Justice Surya Kant.

Unimpressed with the Bombay High Court’s order of April 30, 2019, Justice Gavai said: “What kind of order is this?” The Bench stayed the Bombay HC order and issued notice. For the first time, the scope of a proper debate became a possibility, but a hearing listed on March 26 was adjourned and never came up again.

Justice Bobde has since retired and the “Avinash Mehrotra vs the State of Rajasthan” case has landed in Justice Nariman’s court. It is a matter in appeal from Rajasthan High Court’s judgment in favour of Dream11. That verdict was virtually a cut and paste of the Bombay High Court order.

Interestingly, even during pandemic times, the court registrar has listed the Dream11 case important enough to be heard on Day 1 of the Supreme Court reopening after the summer vacation!

With the PM against games that create mental stress, public sentiment not in favour of betting activities that lead to suicides and several state governments banning online gaming for being socially ’evil’, it remains to be seen how Messrs Nariman, Gavai and Joseph handle a matter that could become a gamechanger for the online gaming industry.

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Actor Rashmika Mandanna appointed Khazana Jewellery brand ambassador

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CHENNAI: Leading jewellery retail chain Khazana has signed actor Rashmika Mandanna as its brand ambassador Starting with a Akshaya Tritiya campaign, Rashmika will be promoting the different facets of the brand including beautiful designs and superior finish through ad campaigns across India. Khazana Jewellery chairman Kishore Kumar Jain said, “We are delighted to rope in Rashmika as our brand ambassador. In the months to come, we will be rolling out a range of campaigns featuring her.”Rashmika said, “Khazana’s legacy is well-known, and I am proud to be associated with it. Their unique designs and superior finish are unmatched. I am excited about our partnership and can’t wait to see the new collections Khazana has in store.”Rashmika, who has a wide fan base in all five southern states, is now gearing up for her Bollywood debut.

Amitabh Bachchan is brand ambassador of GST

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In a video, he explains GST as an unifying force just like the three colours in the national flag. The GST is an initiative to create ‘one nation, one tax, one market’, he says.

The Union government has roped in actor Amitabh Bachchan to promote the Goods and Services Tax (GST), ahead of its implementation from July 1.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs will make the 74-year-old star the brand ambassador of the GST. A 40-second video featuring him had been shot and is being circulated.

“GST — An initiative to create a unified national market,” the Finance Ministry said in a tweet, attaching the video.

GST - An initiative to create a unified national market. #OneNationOneTaxOneMarket — Ministry of Finance (@FinMinIndia) June 19, 2017

In the video, Mr. Bachchan explains the GST as an unifying force just like the three colours in the national flag. The GST is an initiative to create ‘one nation, one tax, one market’, he says.

Ace badminton player PV Sindhu was previously the GST ambassador.

The GST will simplify a web of taxes, regulations and border levies by subsuming an array of Central and State levies, including excise duty, service tax and VAT.

It is being dubbed as the most significant economic reform since the BJP government came to power in 2014 and is expected to add as much as 2 percentage points to the GDP growth rate.

A four-rate structure that exempts or imposes a low rate of tax 5 % on essential items and top rate of 28 % on cars and consumer durables has been finalised. The other slabs of tax are 12 and 18 %.

The GST also represents an unprecedented exercise in fiscal federalism. The GST Council, that brings together the Central and State governments, has met 17 times to thrash out how the tax will work.