Bangalore High Court accepts poker as a game of skill

20 October 2013

Great news for poker in India.

Last week, Karnataka High Court ruled that playing skill games like poker in recreational clubs is permitted and no license is required.

This potentially market-shaping Court decision passed by the Karnataka High Court (Indian Poker Association v. State of Karnataka, WP Nos.  39167 to 39169 of 2013), certainly means the opening of gaming industry in India to a certain extend. Also, it will most possibly benefit positively the pending Delhi High Court decision in February 2014 on whether poker is a game of skill and the whether skill games can be played for stakes.

Special metion to KN Suresh, Secretary of Indian Poker Association (IPA) who has been leading the case for conducting poker games in Bangalore, claims that the police raided a club affiliated with IPA on 29th July 2013, despite having obtained a NOC from the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in 2012 only to harass the players and owners of the club.

The IPA had also sought action against a police officer who conducted "raids" and booked cases against staff and members of a club. The HC directed IPA to complain against the police officer before higher authorities in the police department.

Justice AS Bopanna of the Karnataka High Court comments: “Having taken note of the fact that in respect of the game of poker if played as a game of skill, license is not contemplated and further keeping in view the fact that permission in this case had been obtained in that regard, the petitioner would be entitled to conduct such games provided, the same is in accordance with law.” The order further directed the police not to interfere with lawful activities of the club.

In declarations to Bangalore Mirror, Clawin D'Souza, one of the few professional poker players in the city — he has made a livelihood playing the game— says poker involves more skill than rummy, a far more popular card game. "Compared to other card games poker is relatively new to Indians which is probably why there are complications about it, D'Souza said. "But it (poker) undoubtedly is a game of skill. I'm not saying one will win every hour or every day, but if one has the skill and if one plays with a strategy in place, one will win in the long term. There are five to six lakh people in the US who are professional poker players. The numbers are less in India. As with all games of skill, it is legal to play for stakes."

However, both the Court decision and permission only permit poker for “recreational purposes” and hence whether the game can be played commercially for profit or stakes could be called into question in future.

Despite the limited applicability of this High Court verdict, the decision is an important step forward in recognising poker as a game of skill and we hope it helps bring poker above the ground in india, in both the online and offline scenarios.


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