Poker will always remain a hot topic in India because, it comes into the luxury gaming segment, which only a few opt for as hobbies and even lesser as a career option. Things have turned in the last couple of years or so but it still remains an unsettled region, very much like Kashmir, both the government and the people hanging around there have no clue of what’s going on!
Fret not, GamblingIndiaInfo is here to the rescue, to help you with the legality of poker in India and how Indian law treats it. Over the years, various State High Courts gave their verdict on poker some were in favour but most of them against it. Here’s the complete timeline of the poker verdicts made in India by the respective High Courts.
It all started with the Public Gambling Act of 1867, which was a replica in many sense of the Brits who were then ruling India. Like every other law, this law also failed to give a proper explanation if or not, Poker comes into gambling. So every state and their law dignitaries shared their perspective on the topic and established a set of laws to govern them. However, a total majority could never be achieved for the same reason some people believe that a Bollywood filmstar should not be jailed for killing a deer while others believe that justice was done.
The year 2013 saw the Karnataka High Court, declaring that Poker is a game of skill and not a game of chance because to win in poker regularly the risk-takers go through regular practice sessions and also learn new tips and tricks that can help them outsmart their opponents. And, after hours and hours of mock sessions they go into play in a tournament. The schedule of every professional poker player is just as same as any cricketer or footballer and the mental efforts put in by them equals to that of other athletes who wake up early in the morning and start with their daily schedule. The Karnataka High Court even stated that to play a game of poker or to run a poker house, a license is also not required as poker is no different than any other game.
Following the footsteps of the Karnataka High Court in 2013, K N Suresh got the Calcutta High Court in favour of poker by applying a petition using a long forgotten segment of the law in 2015. The Section 2(b) of The West Bengal Prize Competition and Gambling Act, 1957 which excludes poker, rummy and nap from the clutches of law as a game of chance.
Still, the long term debate kept on rolling and in 2017, the Gujarat High Court’s verdict stated that poker is indeed a game of chance and that’s why the term like bad hand exists in the game and reject the petition laid down by the poker enthusiasts.
In 2018, Bombay High Court also gave the same verdict as the Gujarat High Court that poker is not a game of skill but a game of chance, rejecting Naser Patel’s petition.
A couple of days ago, Senior Counsel Amit Desai took the debate once again on the legality of poker to the jury comprising Justices RM Sawant and Sarang Kotwal. The debate went to the length of the other High Courts in the country who approved poker as a game of skill and also to the international segment, where poker is believed to be a regular profession of many citizens in many countries. The Bombay High Court, accepted the fact and on their website, they officially disclosed that, “The above writ petition has been filed for quashing of the L.A.C. being No.177 of 2016 registered with Goregaon Police Station, for the offences punishable under Sections 4(A) and 5 of the Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887.
The gravamen of the allegations is contained in the said F.I.R.. It is alleged that the Petitioner herein is one of the accused who was found playing the game of “Cards”. We have perused the F.I.R. which gives the description as to how the said game is played. On such perusal, we find that in the said game, as described in the F.I.R., there is no element of skill and it appears to be purely a game of chance and the winner is chosen on the basis of cards, which are received by him on distribution in the said game and the winner also receives the prize in cash on the said basis.”
Having regard to the said aspect, prima facie, we find that the ingredients of the offence under the Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887 is made out. Therefore, we do not deem this a fit case to exercise our writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The Writ Petition is accordingly dismissed.”
The scenario of Poker in India is changing with each passing day and it is only a matter of time that it will be recognized in all parts of the country as a game of skill and can be even followed as a career option.