Gambling and betting is a State subject in India. Therefore individual states have their own laws pertaining to gambling and betting or have adopted the 1867 Public Gambling Act, a central legislation on the subject.
Gaming legislation's in all states and union territories except Assam,Odisha and Telangana exempt ‘games of mere skill’ or ‘games of skill’ from the ambit of the gaming or gambling statutes. In 1967, a division bench of the Supreme Court of India in State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana observed that the game of rummy involved substantial degree of skill.
There has been no known ruling of the apex court on the degree of skill involved in the game of poker. However, Section 2(1) (b) of the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competition Act, 1957 indicates that the game of poker is specifically exempt from the definition of gambling thereby highlighting the level of skill involved therein. Further High Courts of Karnataka and Calcutta have also indicated that poker maybe a game of skill and therefore directed the police not to interfere with poker games of clubs.
Furthermore, there has been some statistical evidence and International judicial decisions to argue that poker could be construed as a game involving substantial degree of skill as per Indian laws.
Given this scenario, it can be said that there is a high possibility that poker would be construed as a game of skill in India as per prevailing laws. However, since the laws in Assam, Odisha, Gujarat and Telangana do not distinguish between games of skill and chance and penalize both these activities, real-money online poker should not be offered in these two states. Further, in the state of Sikkim as per the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008, Rules framed thereof as well as notifications and amendments, online games means all or any games of chance or a combination of skill or chance. Poker is specifically included in the list of games that is sought to be regulated and licensed.
Most recently, Nagaland legalized online games of skill (poker included) back in April 2016, the Indian state of Nagaland has already started to issue online poker licenses to operators.
Please note that this information does not amount to a legal opinion about poker and cannot be relied upon for legal purposes.
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