From Times of India
AHMEDABAD: In an important judgment, Gujarat high court held that Poker is a game of chance and does not involve a substantial degree of skill, and hence falls in the definition of gambling.
Rejecting petitions by the Indian Association of Poker and various gaming zones, Justice R H Shukla said the history of poker clearly suggests that it is a game of chance.
The HC also ruled out the possibility of granting a licence for poker in limited space, as USA does for gambling, on the ground that the statute here prohibits gambling and the state of Gujarat has a right to make legislation, though the game is permitted in West Bengal and parts of North-East.
The HC cited judgments of foreign countries and various articles to say that Poker originated from the game of Flash, which is referred to as ‘Teen Patti’ in India. The Supreme Court has also concluded that Brag, Flash and Teen Patti are games of chance.
“Therefore, as a necessary corollary, Poker as its variant must also fall in the category of a game of chance,” the HC order reads. “Even if it is a game of skill, but played with stakes, it may be considered gambling.” Thus there are reasons why the terms ‘bad luck’, ‘bad beat’ and ‘unlucky streak’ exist,” the court said.
The HC said Rummy is a game of skill with nothing to do with stakes, while Poker is a game of gambling with cards, which necessarily involves betting as it is an inseparable part of the game. “Inducing others to bet or misguiding them with a poker face cannot be considered a skill,” the court said.
The above can have relevant consequences for poker industry in India.
Implications and analysis by Jay Sayta:
The judgment of the Gujarat High Court is a setback for skill games and especially for poker and would have implications on both online and offline games of skill. While poker is clearly classified as gambling and cannot be played from the state of Gujarat (online or offline), the observation that any game of skill played for stakes can be considered gambling means that real-money rummy (both online and offline) and fantasy sports could also be interpreted to be within the ambit of gambling in the state of Gujarat.
The judgment however has several flaws and seems to have been based on moral, religious and social arguments rather than settling the legal principle of whether exemption of games of skill from the statute would mean that no part of the gambling statute would apply.
The court has also disregarded academic studies, legal and statutory precedents of other states and jurisdictions as well as statistical data. The matter is sure to be appealed before a division bench of the Gujarat High Court on several grounds and there is a strong case for getting the order overruled.