Poker is a popular card game that has been enjoyed by people worldwide for centuries. In India, however, the legality of poker has always been a bit of a grey area, and the laws governing it are not entirely clear-cut. The Public Gambling Act, 1867 is the main law that governs gambling in India, but it is outdated and does not account for the rapid changes in the gambling landscape, particularly in the realm of online gaming.
One of the main issues when it comes to the legality of poker is whether it is a game of skill or a game of chance. In general, games of chance are considered gambling and subject to stricter regulations, while games of skill are not and may be exempt from some of these regulations.
Is Poker Legal in India?
Several courts in India have ruled that poker is indeed a game of skill and not chance. These courts have stated that the outcome of the game is determined by the players’ ability to make strategic decisions, read their opponents, and manage their resources, rather than by mere luck. As such, these courts have exempted poker from the definition of gambling and declared it to be a legal activity.
However, not all courts in India have taken the same view. Some courts have argued that poker is, in fact, a game of chance and therefore should be considered gambling. These courts have pointed out that luck does play a role in the game, and that even the best players can lose if they are dealt a bad hand. As a result, they declared that poker is illegal under the Public Gambling Act, 1867.
The lack of consistency in the way courts have ruled on the legality of poker has created some confusion among players and gambling operators alike. In recent years, several states in India have taken steps to clarify the legal status of online gaming, including poker. For example, the state of Tamil Nadu passed a law in 2021
Despite the legal challenges faced by poker in India, the game continues to be popular among players, particularly those who believe that it is a game of skill. Some online poker operators have even found ways to operate within the law, by offering their services through offshore companies or by partnering with local businesses.
Online Poker Banned States In India
The Assam Game & Betting Act, 1970, Telangana State Gaming (Amendment), Odisha (Prevention of) Gambling Act, 1955, the Amendment to the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974, the Ordinance and High Court Judgment in Gujarat, 2017 prohibits games that have money stakes involved. It also hasn’t created any sort of exception for games of skill. Therefore, residents of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Odisha, and Telangana are not permitted to play online poker.
Is Offline Poker Legal In India?
The legality of offline poker in India varies from state to state. While some states have legalized offline poker, others have imposed restrictions on it or declared it illegal.
In general, the Public Gambling Act, 1867 is the main law that governs gambling in India, and it prohibits running or being in charge of a public gambling house. However, the act does not specifically mention poker or any other card games.
Some states in India have passed laws or issued notifications that specifically legalize poker. For example, the state of West Bengal has legalized certain types of poker games that are played in private homes or clubs, as long as no money is exchanged between the players.
Some states like Goa and Sikkim even have legalized casinos. The act that governs the laws in Goa and Daman & Diu also allowed slot machines in 5-star hotels and card rooms in offshore vessels. One thing to note was that this is subject to prior approval & authorization of the State Government on payment of a specified fee which is recurring in nature.
In India, only Daman, Sikkim, and Goa allow casinos. There are 10 casinos in Goa out of which four are floating casinos while the rest are land-based. Sikkim has 2 casinos while Daman has 1. As per some news reports, Visakhapatnam is also being considered as a casino destination.
Is Poker Legal in Tamil Nadu State?
As of recently,
“The Tamil Nadu government had passed a law that will result in banning most online games of skill including rummy and poker.”
This implied that advertising in any form and promoting to play online games of chance with money, skills or other stakes has been prohibited in the state of Tamil Nadu. The specified ‘online games of chance’ as per the rules are rummy and poker.
BUT HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS (UPDATE):
On November 9, 2023, the Madras High Court decided not to completely remove the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Act, 2022. But, it did say that the law won’t affect games that require skill, like online rummy and poker.
The legality of poker in India remains a complex issue that’s still being debated in courts and legislatures across the country. While most of the courts have declared the game to be legal, other few have ruled that it is illegal.