India to decide on rummy´s legality

21 August 2014

 From EGReview magazine

India’s highest court is set to end a long-running debate next month when it will decide whether playing online rummy for cash in the country is a legal activity, a ruling which could potentially open the market up to poker foreign operators.

The Supreme Court will judge whether poker and other card games such as rummy are games of ‘mere skill’ and therefore legally allowed, or a game of ‘chance’ and in breach of the country’s gambling laws.

Last week Amaya CEO David Baazov said India was now on the company’s radar following its $4.9bn acquisition of PokerStars’ parent company Rational Group earlier this month.

And Pinsent Masons gaming lawyer Bryan Tan told eGaming Review that legalising cash poker games could lead to a drive in innovation in India which foreign operators would be “more adept at”.

However, an executive at an India-facing site said some companies, including PokerStars, may be better served by operating in the grey market.

“PokerStars are starting to take an interest in India, however, my view is that they already have a brand there and they're better off, from a tax perspective, keeping it in the grey market rather than trying to get licensed as a skill games operator,” they said.

Gambling in India is heavily restricted and, according to a recent report by the Economic Times of India, a number of local firms have been challenged by authorities after offering online card games with a rake paid to the operator.

The legality of operators offering such games for a fee has been blurred of late with a number of courts having failed to come to a consensus on the issue – for instance, the Karnataka High Court has permitted games with stakes while the Madras High Court banned the activity.
Should the Supreme Court judge poker to be a game of skill and therefore allowed be played for stakes, the door to the market could swing open for overseas operators.

Last year, India discussed the possibility of legalising sports betting following a spate of cricket match-fixing allegations and some now expect these talks to progress following a change in government and election of new president Narendra Modi in May.


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