The game of poker is popular in just about every single country in the world and India is no exception. India which has the second highest population in the world has a fast growing poker community which mostly comprises of players in the age group of 20-40.
While there are very few official poker tournaments being held, there are a number of small clubs and associations that run low profile poker games and tournaments that have a regular customer base. One of these groups is the Royal Flush Sports and Cultural Association in Chamrajpet, Bangalore.
The association conducted regular poker games for poker players but faced an unpleasant situation recently when the authorities stormed the premises and arrested over 30 players. The authorities filed cases against these players stating that they were involved in betting, which is illegal in India.
Bangalore has a concentration of some of the biggest IT companies in India and is considered to be an extremely cosmopolitan city. Hence, the crackdown on these privately run poker games did not go down well with many. The Indian Poker Association (IPA) immediately decided to file a petition in the High Court of Karnataka stating that the authorities went overboard by harassing and humiliating aspiring poker players by arresting them and later filing cases.
In a statement, Suresh K Naduvath, honorary secretary of IPA, said
In the E Eranna & others vs State of Karnataka case (1977), it was laid down that, ‘it is manifest that a game of skill would not be held to be gambling’. Poker is a game of skill, just like golf, cricket, scrabble, carom, rummy, basketball or volleyball and betting or wagering in games of skill or athletic games in Karnataka is permissible. The only two states where betting or wagering is not permissible even in games of skill is Odisha and Assam.
In the end, the High Court ruled in favour of the petition and stated that poker was a game of skill and hence it is not correct for the authorities to arrest anyone on the charges of illegal betting. The court has asked for the cases against the 30 players to be dropped and no action to be taking against poker related games. However, the court declined to take any action against the authorities as requested by the IPA, stating that if the IPA wanted to take this case further, it could file another case.
The IPA should be happy with the decision as the court not only dropped the charges but officially confirmed that the game of poker is a game of skill and can be legally played in Bangalore.