Legality of gambling in India

Gaming/Gambling legislation in India prohibit gambling or wagering and any action that is meant to help or facilitate the same. Gaming/Gambling being a State subject, different States in India have distinct gaming/gambling laws. This would mean what’s allowed in 1 State could be an offence in another.

The Public Gambling Act, 1867, is the fundamental enactment on the topic, that was adopted by certain countries of India such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh etc.. Another States in India have enacted their own laws to govern gambling / gaming activities within its territory. It’s to be mentioned that State Legislations are enacted before the arrival of virtual / online gaming and so mentions of gaming/gambling in various state legislatures are in connection with physical assumptions simply, alerting Sikkim and Nagaland that are the sole States who’ve introduced regulations regarding the internet gambling.

After heading through the State gaming legislation, it’s discovered that, except that the State of Orissa and Assam, the majority of those States have resisted’games of skill’ from applicability of its various gaming/gambling legislation. Further, playing certain games such as’Poker’, both offline and online, is allowed under the legislation of West Bengal, Nagaland and Sikkim subject to license from the right State Authorities. But this could be applicable only from the territorial limitations of the various State. In Goa, gaming is allowed only in Government allowed places functioned as casinos.

The dilemma of internet gambling remains a gray area that’s yet to be adjudicated by Courts of India. Having said this, necessary inferences could be drawn out of orders passed by the Court while determining the issue of if a specific match is a’game of skill’ or even a’game of chance’. However, the matter of whether a’game of chance’, if played just like a game without bets amount to betting or not? Still remains mostly undecided.

There’s been a significant debate by Supreme Court and High Court about which constitutes a’game of skill’ and also a’game of chance’. What is adduced in the conclusions is a match where there’s preponderance of ability over opportunity is a’game of skill’ and vice-versa.

By taking the aforementioned ratio into Consideration, SC in the Issue of State of AP v. K.Satyanarayana (1968) held the match of Rummy for a’game of skill’. On the other hand, the Court in its ruling has suggested that if there’s betting or if the gaming house is earning profit in the game of rummy, then it might amount to a crime under the laws of AP. It was further detected by SC the 3 card game that goes under different names like flush, brag, etc. is a game of pure chance. This has been relied upon by SC in a different its other conclusions viz.

The matter of if rummy if performed stakes amounts to betting or not hasn’t yet been determined by Supreme Court. But, Andra Pradesh High Court at D. Krishna Kumar And Anr. Vs State Of A.P.(2002) (Annexure-2) relying on the SC conclusion of 1968 held that until this time the nation gaming Act is amended to put down which playing Rummy with bets would be”gaming”, playing Rummy with bets isn’t’gaming’ within the meaning of this Act and is therefore permitted.

The Dilemma of Online Gaming/gambling was mentioned in detailed in the preceding case Once the problem was set up before the Court under Order 36 Rule(1) of CPC by the parties. The Court held that the following:

Game of abilities, if played stakes doesn’t amount to betting;

Playing games of skill for cash is legal in the actual type, online games can’t be compared to actual games;

Attracting company or enticing players by enticing them with prize money is prohibited;

Gaming websites partaking a piece on the hand are prohibited as they sum to a virtual gaming home.

Having said this, the said judgment was rendered infructuous like throughout the last arguments at the Revision request, parties sought to draw the request. Hence that the consequence being there is not any judgment that may be handled as a precedent as regards online gaming.

The difficulty whether Indian Poker is a’game of skill’ or even a’game of chance’ wasn’t discussed in detail from any Court in India before the current decision/order dated December 4, 2017 passed by Gujrat High Court at Dominance Games Pvt. Ltd.. V. State of Gujarat, wherein, the stated issue was broadly pondered upon. The Court in its stated decision maintained that Poker is a’game of chance’ and consequently amounts to betting underneath Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887. While coming at the aforesaid conclusion, the Court inter alia discovered the following:

That the sport of poker originated from’flush’ or’Indian teenpatti’ that was observed by SC for a game of opportunity in its own 1968 ruling and thus, as a corollary, the sport of poker is also to be construed as a game of chance;

The sport of poker entails a procedure wherein the players don’t have any control or state on the cards obtained by these along with the final outcome relies on mere luck or opportunity depending upon the way the cards have been obtained by the participant. Poker face to wager, could be part of deception or bluffing as well as the so-called approach, cannot be deemed as a skill. The result also depends upon the ability of a participant to invest money and how heavy are his pockets. It’s a sport of deceiving, bluffing and duping different gamers;

That the sport of poker originated from’flush’ or’Indian teenpatti’ that was observed by SC for a game of opportunity in its own 1968 ruling and thus, as a corollary, the sport of poker is also to be construed as a game of chance;

The sport of poker entails a procedure wherein the players don’t have any control or state on the cards obtained by these along with the final outcome relies on mere luck or opportunity depending upon the way the cards have been obtained by the participant. Poker face to wager, could be part of deception or bluffing as well as the so-called approach, cannot be deemed as a skill. The result also depends upon the ability of a participant to invest money and how heavy are his pockets. It’s a sport of deceiving, bluffing and duping different gamers;

The sport of Rummy differs than Poker. While poker entails gambling or wagering, rummy doesn’t have anything to do with bets and gambling or wagering isn’t vital to the game of rummy;

The Court while imagining the ills of betting and influence of betting on the moral fiber of society noticed the ‘one must not overlook the ground realities in India or the country like India, where the majority of the population is struggling for the basic necessity and there is lack of awareness amongst the people and if they are permitted by betting in the craze of easy money, they do not know what to do if the things go wrong.’

The seat after hearing the issue temporarily on December 28, 2017 issued notice to the state authorities along with other economists, and until date the matter isn’t discovered eventually. That being said, because no ad-interim/interim reliefs are allowed now, the Single Judge order stands legitimate and enforceable.

Though the arrangement doesn’t make any monitoring on Poker, if performed as a game and/or without bets, nevertheless, while differentiating between rummy and poker, the Hon’ble Court at para 60 of the said order makes a presumption that wagering or betting is an inseparable part of the game of poker and therefore would involve stake.

In view of the above, it is clear that if a game is considered to be a’game of chance’ below the state laws and rulings from the Courts and can be played stakes, would constitute betting below the various state laws with exclusion pertaining to a couple countries as stated above. When an entity can demonstrate that a certain online match or a distinct on-ground gambling action gets preponderance of skill within opportunity or is played a game without bets, it might fall within the exclusion of gaming/gambling beneath the state gaming laws. It’s important to note however that if online gambling is prohibited in any State, the marketing of the exact same in this State would amount to breach of ASCI Code in addition to Cable TV Network Regulation Act, 1994.