The poker craze appears to have struck the Indian market hard and the game has grown at a rapid pace in a number of Indian states despite being legal only in Goa, Karnataka and Sikkim.
Significant growth has been observed in both online and offline versions of the game over the past few years.
Cash poker games are being held in elite neighborhoods in most of the top cities across the country and over 600,000 Indian users are registered with India’s leading poker website Adda52.com.
The three states that have legalized poker continue to witness a growth in both offline and online poker games and have caused other states to consider the possibility of legalizing the poker industry.
Poker is banned in most parts of India as gambling laws view poker as a game of chance and not a game of skill. Gaming lobbyists in the country are pushing lawmakers in a number of states to introduce new amendments to state gambling laws that will cause poker to be considered a sport. One of the main reasons for the popularity of poker is due to a thriving underground poker industry in the country.
A number of illegal poker clubs have been set up all over India, especially in places such as Gurgaon, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. A number of these illegal clubs have a deal with the authorities who turn a blind eye in exchange for regular commissions. The clubs have a special client list that receives information as to when games are taking place along with the underground location.
The raked games operate similar to a casino with the house taking a cut for administrative expenses such as paying off the local authorities. Some believe that the illegality of poker has led to rake cap games in India being the highest in the world.
These underground clubs operate in secrecy with entrance limited to those with invites only. Most of the players participating are in their 20s and 30s some of whom have given up their careers to play poker full-time. Players cite the high levels of cash that can be won in games and the feeling of being a ‘Rockstar’ as key reasons for pursuing poker as a full time career.
With all signs pointing to the continued popularity of poker in the country, experts say that the need for legalizing the poker industry is becoming critical in order effectively counter the danger of problem gambling, crippling debts and drug addiction.