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Is Poker Legal in India?

When you visit places like New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, Las Vegas etc., one thing that attracts most of the tourists is gambling and Casinos. Everyone wants to go to the Casinos and play Poker or many more games. Poker in India is also very popular, but is it legal?

There are numerous casinos in such countries, which are full of visitors from all across the world. And one of the most popular games which is played in these casinos is poker. But not just in casinos, people can also play this game anywhere they like – at their homes, parties, clubs, or anywhere else!

But since it is a form of gambling, many laws get associated with this. Is poker legal in India or not, remains the question in so many minds. Here we will touch upon this topic for you.

Is Poker Legal?

Poker lies in a grey area.

According to the gambling laws of India, if a state has any particular gambling related laws, then they can carry out their own. But if no laws are present in a state, then the central laws for gambling applies to them.

And according to the Central law, Public Gambling Act of 1867, running a public gaming house is a crime. And if anybody is even found at such a gaming house, penalty will apply on him or her. So in that terms, poker is illegal in India as a whole. And this is the worst fact, that even after 150 years, the laws are no where near getting changed. It shows how backwards our country is in terms of such laws and regulations.

An Indian arrested by Police for Gambling

But like I told above, if a state has individual laws, that those laws will over-rule the central law. So this might come as a relief for some people who love to play poker and various other casino games.

And one thing which needs to be noted here is, that there is a difference between games based on chance, and games based on skill. While chance games are illegal, skill based games are not. One of the popular examples for skill based game is Rummy. And that makes rummy legal in India, since it is based on skill. And same judgement has been passed by Madras High Court in the favor of Poker as well. The skill element of poker is high which enables it to get ruled out from illegal category. But the Supreme Court is yet to pass its judgement on this.

Online Poker & its Legality

online poker is legalWhile so far, poker is illegal in India and cannot be played in clubs or anywhere else. But what about online poker? Is poker legal in India if it is online?

Shockingly, there are actually no laws for online poker. And even thePublic Gambling Act of 1867 does not talk anything about online gambling. Legal obligations state that you can play online poker on legal poker sites in India only. But so far, there is no law or legal list which states that which online poker sites are legal. So people continue to enjoy this fact since no one is seriously worried about it yet.

This makes online poker market a big untapped market for businessmen, who continue to make large money through these websites. So, to nutshell, online poker is legal, if

  • You are playing it for fun, and
  • The website where you win money is deducting tax from your wins.

This makes online poker legal! So you can start logging into your favorite poker websites and start making some good money.

Let’s now talk about some state laws regarding offline poker. Since no verdict is given by Supreme Court so far, poker is counted amongst gambling games in the central law. But like I said, state laws can over rule it, so let’s see where you can go to enjoy some offline poker games.

State wise legality

While there are many states that have their own gambling rules, we will discuss about 2 of the most popular states in India –

  • Maharashtra, and
  • Goa

People come from all over the world to have fun in Goa. And Maharashtra being the adjoining state and one of the biggest and busiest states, it also forms a part of trip people have planned.

Rules in Maharashtra

Gambling is, by default, prohibited in Maharashtra. But despite that, there are many casinos in Mumbai which witness tourists round the clock. Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887 was passed in Maharashtra which regulated the gambling practices. But even this law leaves a grey area, where games of skill such as horse races, etc. are left out, although they need license from the govt. to function.

Rules in Goa

Is Poker Legal in India? In Goa, definitely yes!

Goa is heavily tourist destination. And so, the laws here are completely different than anywhere else. Gambling is totally permissible here, on the condition that hotel needs to take prior permissions from the government. While casinos are allowed, common gaming houses are prohibited and may attract heavy penalties if someone is found guilty here.

Overall, Poker is a very grey area. This is an established fact that it is based on skill more than chance. But there is still the need of verdict from Supreme Court to stamp this fact and exclude this from the list of illegal activities. So the answer to your question, “Is Poker Legal in India?” can be said in both yes and no! There are so many loopholes in the current regulations. You need to take your call safely.

Cathy Queen
Cathy Queen

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