Indian High Court Lifts Ban on Online Poker and Rummy

Last week, the Madras High Court in Tamil Nadu, India, delivered a landmark ruling favorable to the online poker industry. It overturned the state’s blanket ban on games of chance, which had included poker and rummy. The court’s decision, recognizing poker and rummy as games of skill, has significant implications for the booming online gaming market in India, a country with a population exceeding 1.4 billion.

Roland Landers, CEO of the All India Gaming Federation, expressed his gratitude for the ruling. “We are truly grateful for this landmark decision by the Honorable Madras High Court upholding the difference between games of skill and chance in line with over six decades of jurisprudence on the subject,” he said. Landers sees this as a major boost for the industry, creating more certainty for investors and the gaming community.

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The ruling, however, comes with certain conditions. The justices have allowed the state to regulate online rummy and poker, including aspects like the minimum age for playing, permissible timings, and other relevant considerations.

During the legal proceedings, gaming companies argued against the ban, emphasizing their operation within legal frameworks by paying goods and services taxes (GST) and only charging fees for providing a competitive platform. They contended that if games of chance were legal in physical venues, they should not be banned online.

On the other side, Tamil Nadu government officials, as reported by the Times of India, argued that the ban’s removal hadn’t been contested by any aggrieved players. They raised concerns about gaming companies potentially exploiting players and questioned the security measures on gaming sites. “They (gaming portals) entice the players by offering incentives in order to make profits,” the state argued. “There is every possibility of using bots (artificial intelligence) disguised as real players.”

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The ruling is expected to have a far-reaching impact. Tamil Nadu, with its 72 million residents, is a significant market, and the popularity of online poker has been rising in India. Other states also recognize games of skill, with companies like PokerStars, adda52, and Natural8 (a GGPoker skin) catering to the Indian audience.

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