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Thousands of online players lose livelihood, supplemental income in K'taka as gaming ban enters 2nd month

 
New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) As the gaming ban in Karnataka continues in its second month, thousands of online players have lost their livelihood and supplemental income.

The rise of esports and gaming in the past few years attracted lakhs of enthusiasts in this tech savvy state. Thousands of online players had turned professionals or semi professionals. Additionally lakhs of people were supplementing their income by playing games and esports.

The gaming ban that took effect on October 5, 2021 had put a halt to all online gaming and esports activity that involved entry fees or prize money. A group of aggrieved online players have approached the Karnataka High Court for relief as they have lost their livelihood. Pramod Kumar K., Pratab Rajagopal and Ravikiran E., all residents of Bengaluru have jointly filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Karnataka High Court for overturning the ban.

Pramod Kumar, who has been professionally playing and competing at online Fantasy Games since 2016 said, "I have spent a considerable time and money honing my skills in fantasy sports. Having practiced diligently over the last five years, I now earn a major part of my income from fantasy sports."

Pratab Rajgopal, a collection executive, had started playing since May 2021 and since then used his knowledge of sports and team picking skill to supplement his meagre income. Ravikiran, who works in a bank, had also become quite adept in fantasy sports after months of practice. Both were looking forward to playing fantasy sports when the sudden ban was introduced in Karnataka.

According to the PIL, "The legislation has effectively put a complete halt on the conduct of 'games of skill' in the State of Karnataka thereby depriving the Petitioners and other similarly placed individuals from earning their money through application of their skills and expertise."

The petition further enumerated: "The said amendment thus introduces a complete prohibition on 'games of skill' which have been held to be a legitimate business activity protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and therefore deprives the petitioners and other similarly placed individuals from exercising their choice to express themselves through online skill gaming and also deprives them of their means of earning and livelihood. The above said amendment also contrary to judicial pronouncements of the Hon'ble Supreme Court and various High Courts

In their joint petition, the gamers said, "The State could have introduced a suitable regulatory framework instead of enacting a blanket ban on 'games of skill' altogether, and effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

--IANS
san/dpb