- High Court ruled that poker does not involve a substantial degree of skill
- Poker is legal in West Bengal and some areas of North-East India
The High Court of Gujarat has given its verdict on whether poker can be considered a game of chance or a game of skill, and the result is bad news for poker players in the state.
The High Court rejected petitions from some gaming zones and the Indian Association of Poker, and ruled that the history of poker showed it was a game of chance, which did not involve a significant level of skill and therefore should be considered as gambling.
In detailing its decision, the court also ruled out the idea of giving a poker licence to operators in a limited zone, as happens in the US. Poker is not currently legal throughout most of India, with the exception of West Bengal and parts of the North-East of the country.
Explaining the ruling, the Court order cited a number of legal judgements made in other countries, including the USA and Australia, to show that poker has its origins in the game of Flash – known as Teen Patti in India, and noted that the Supreme Court has previously ruled that games such as Brag, Flash and Teen Patti are games of chance.
The court said: “Therefore, as a necessary corollary, Poker as its variant must also fall in the category of a game of chance. Even if it is a game of skill, but played with stakes, it may be considered gambling. Thus there are reasons why the terms ‘bad luck’, ‘bad beat‘ and ‘unlucky streak‘ exist.”
The Court dealt with the issue of Rummy – currently legal in India – which they ruled was a game of skill, as it had nothing to do with betting, while with poker, gambling is an integral part of the game. In reaching their ruling, they also drew on Indian scripture, referring to the ancient Sanskrit legal text Manusmriti. “While Manu condemned gambling outright, Yajnavalkya sought to bring it under state control. But he too in verse 202(2) provided that persons gambling with false dice or other instruments should be branded and punished by the king. Kautilya also advocated state control of gambling. Gambling has been prohibited by many because it destroys truth, honesty and wealth.”
It appears there is still a long way to go in India becoming a major poker economy.
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