While Mature Markets Promote Gambling Awareness, Tamil Nadu Bans and Erases
media reports, the Tamil Nadu government is erasing examples of playing cards used in school textbook mathematical problems in a continuous effort of many years to fight online gambling addictions and suicides that can be related to such addictions, particularly the popular card game rummy.
The public health protection initiative comes shortly after the Southern state
enacted its second ban on online games involving real money, and while the constitutional validity of the ban is still being contested in the High Court of Madras by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and several online gaming companies.
Previously, math textbooks for sixth class explained the concept of integers to students and taught them how to add and subtract with the help of examples from playing cards. Tenth-class textbooks used examples with card decks for lessons in statistics.
Now, starting from the current school year, any instances of mentioning playing cards have been removed and replaced with images of flowers. Examples of dice and coin flipping have been preserved.
While math textbooks are not the right place to teach awareness against the dangers of rummy, TN’s way of protecting public health when it comes to gambling problems and addictions is the exact opposite of the
responsible gambling policies widely adopted in mature economies and intended “ to build resilience for children, young people, and vulnerable adults”.
Shying away from gambling problems by trying to ban and erase playing cards and games is not a function of the current DMK-led TN cabinet, but is
widely supported among the State’s political class. The first blanket online gaming ban in Tamil Nadu was enacted by the previous government led by the AIADMK party which is now in opposition.
In the last several months, numerous politicians and other public figures have urged the Tamil Nadu government to get rid of playing cards and rummy mentions in school textbooks.
“Such examples will not teach students about integers but only a rummy game of cards. It will spoil the students,” Anbumani Ramados, president of the regional PMK party and member of the Rajya Sabha
said in April.
Unspoiled, but Vulnerable. Why?
Tamil Nadu is apparently having some serious problems with online gambling and rummy and needs to take care of vulnerable citizens. The State government could initiate gambling problems awareness programs for the higher school classes as part of broader responsible gaming policies and finally start lowering the social cost of gambling.
Instead, TN politicians seem to think that if cards and rummy are not mentioned in math textbooks, kids have nowhere to learn that the game exists or try to play it, and it’s best to leave them “unspoiled”, rather than informed.
Tamil Nadu’s head-burying approach to gambling has become the norm, even though the Madras High Court did try to take the politicians’ heads out of the sand when it
quashed the State’s first online gaming ban in August 2021 as ultra vires of the Constitution and directed the government to regulate.
“The State has been looking for its “way out” of gambling-related problems for almost three years now, always creating intense political drama, but never considering responsible gaming or any other approach, different from a total prohibition on online games,” a
recent opinion piece by SevenJackpots says and points to the fact that online gambling traffic from Tamil Nadu has only been increasing over the last two years, according to their internal data.
The article references one of the studies that were submitted to the TN cabinet during the rather short public discussion phase of the latest gaming ban lawmaking process, and which never found a place in the government’s motivation for enacting the legislation.
This study by Dr. H. Shah from the Shri Govind Guru University described the unwanted consequences of such a prohibition – it would push players into the hands of black market bookies or game organizers, and loan sharks.
For the Women’s Votes. That’s Why.
India’s illegal gaming market was already
valued at nearly 10 lakh crore in 2015, and politicians closing their eyes to this fact does raise some questions.
Uday Walia, the partner at prominent law firm Touchstone Partners, gives his answer to the question of why India maintains its problem gambling rate at 7.2% through dubious prohibition policies, instead of going for the responsible gaming practices which have brought problem gambling rate in the UK to
0.2% in Episode 5 of the SevenJackpots Podcast.
“I think it’s all coming out of female votes because the perception of gambling is very different if you are a rural woman versus if you’re a rural man. For instance, in fishing communities, a lot of fishermen are daily wage earners, and the fear is, just like with alcohol, that they’ll spend their earnings on it [gambling] before they reach home,” Walia says.
“It’s coming across as the government cares for them [the women], and that this paternalistic approach is something that appeals to them,” he adds. “However, I think the Indian voter is far more sophisticated than that. This might have worked 20, 30 years ago, but the Indian voter has moved on.”
The Indian voter may have moved on, but the social cost of politicians not having done it is still climbing up.