Poker in India #GamingLaws #GamingInIndia

Disclaimer – (This is an informative article for awareness and study purpose. Author doesn’t provide his/her views on the morality around online gaming and gambling through this article)

As per the latest development in the field of sports online gaming, on December 28th 2018 Dr.Shashi Tharoor introduced Sports (Online Gaming & Prevention of Fraud), 2018 in Lok Sabha.

The bill was based on to the idea of regulation of online gaming and to penalize sports fraud. The increasing commercial nature of sports increase events. The bill legalizes and regulates online sports betting to address the issue wrote Dr. Tharoor on his Twitter handle.

Sports gaming and gambling regulations has become a big part of transactions on International scenario as well and regulation around it is vouched by eminent personalities from politics and legal fraternity in India. Here is a quick glance regarding the legal framework around the sports online gaming and gambling in India.

Cases Ratio
Indian Poker Association v. State of Karnataka (October 2013)


Court ruled in respect of the game of Poker if played as a game of skill, license is not contemplated. The petitioner was entitled to conduct such games, provided the same is in accordance of law.


The court said that playing poker in recreational club is permitted and no license is required for the same.


The court recognised Poker as the game of skill.


Also, Online gaming boomed especially in Karnataka

Manoranjithan Manamyil Mandaram v State of Tamil Nadu (2005) Whether a game is of chance or skill, it would be decided on the facts and circumstances of each case.
K R Lakshmanan vs State of Tamil Nadu (1996) Supreme Court held that betting on horse racing was a game of skill since factors like fitness, and skill of the horse and jockey could be objectively assessed by a person placing a bet.  reasoning
State of Andhra Pradesh v K.Satyanarayana & ors (1967) The SC specifically tested the game of RUMMY on the principle of skill vs chance and held that Rummy was not a game entirely based on chance.
State of Bombay vs R.M.D. Chamarbaugwala (1957) The Supreme Court of India has interpreted the words “mere skill” to include games which are preponderantly of skill and have laid down that the competition where success depends on substantial degree of skill will not fall into category of ‘gambling’ and despite there being an element of chance, if a game is preponderantly a game of skill, it would nevertheless be a game of “mere skill”.



Central Act – Public Gambling Act, 1867

(UP, Punjab, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh)


Makes it crime to either run a “Public Gambling House” or to even be present at one, and provides criminal penalties for both.  (Section 3 and 4)


Section 12 – Nothing in the foregoing provisions in this act contained shall be held to apply to any game of mere SKILL WHEREVER (Here the assumption with regards to the skill and place which excludes even public gambling houses from the liability if the game is the game of mere skill)  played.

The Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and promotion and Regulation of online games of skill bill, 2015 Even for Online poker the association needs to take permit from the State Govt.
Goa- Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act Admissible (by Legislation)
Sikkim – The Sikkim Regulation of Gambling Act, 2005

Sikkim Online Gaming Regulation Act, 2008

Assam Gaming and Betting Act, 1970 Gaming is prohibited
Karnataka Police Act, 1963 Admissible (by judicial precedent)
Tamil Nadu City Police Gaming Rules, 1949 Game of Skills
Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930 Game of skills
The West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act, 1957 Poker is a game of skill. Admissible


Note : After the recent amendment in Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Dacoits, Drug-offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Land Grabbers (Amendment) Act 2018, Gaming is also included in Section 1 subsection (1) of the principle act which makes it a draconian offence.


Essence and Impact of  The Public Gaming Act (Central Act)

The Public Gambling Act, 1867


The general laws would apply unless a state specific sanctions it.

Entry 34 List II of the Indian Constitution

 Common Gaming House – “Common gaming-house ” means any house, walled enclosure, room or place in which cards, dice, tables or other instruments of gaming are kept or used for the profit or gain of the person owning, occupying, using or keeping such house, enclosure, room or place, whether by way of charge for the use of the instruments of gaming, or of the house, enclosure, room or place, or otherwise howsoever (It seems that the intention of the legislature is to impose restrictions on the physically enclosed premises for the purpose of making profit or gain from the use of such premises. Thus, a private residential house should not be considered or constitute a common gaming house as per the definition, if there is lack of intent on the part of the owner to derive any profit or gain for the use of his house for gambling purposes).


Search and Seizure: Section 5

Powers to enter and authorise police to enter and search.-If the Magistrate of a district or other officer invested with the full powers of a Magistrate, or the District Superintendent of Police, upon credible information, and after such enquiry as he may think necessary, has reason to believe that any house, walled enclosure, room or place, is used as a common gaming-house, he may either himself enter, or by his warrant authorise any officer of police, not below such rank as the State Government shall appoint in this behalf to enter with such assistance as may be found necessary, by night or by day, and by force if necessary, any such house, walled enclosure, ,room or place; and may either himself take into custody, or authorise such officer to take into custody, all persons-whom he or such officer finds therein, whether or not then actually gaming;

and may seize or authorise such officer to seize all instruments of gaming, and all moneys and securities for money, and articles of value, reasonably suspected to have been used or intended to be used for the purpose of gaming which are found therein;

and may search or authorise such officer to search all parts of the house, walled enclosure, room or place which he or such officer shall have so entered when he or such officer has reason to believe that any instruments of gaming are concealed therein, and also the persons of those whom he or such officer so takes into custody; and may seize or authorise such officer to seize and take possession of all instruments of gaming found upon such search.

Penalty : (Section 3 and 4)

Owning Public Gaming House – Rs 200 fine or imprisonment of upto 3 months

Visiting Gambling House – Rs 100 fine or imprisonment of 1 month


Poker is a game of skill as per ruled in the case of Indian Poker Association v state of Karnataka, it is to be considered as the game of skill which is not based only upon the preponderance of chance. It excludes poker from the list of illegal games. When we speak about legal poker sites there is no certain definition of Legal poker sites.  Also, poker sites can escape the liability on the fact that poker is a game of skill.  According to the case of Manoranjithan Manamyil Mandaram v State of Tamil Nadu (2005) whether a game is of chance or skill, it would be decided on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Information Technology Act somehow prohibits publication and transmission of information that can corrupt people.

In the real sense, the issue of legality of gaming or specifically poker is one which can be argued out in court on various contentions in different states because the central act is the basic floor of the laws to regulate it but states have freedom to mold it accordingly.

The whole issue of legality in Gaming is always an issue based on facts and circumstances of each case in question. While if we speak about Poker it has been recognize as a game of skill by a judicial precedent in Indian Poker Association v. State of Karnataka (October 2013).




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