Curiously, the act of gaming or gambling is not defined under the Public Gambling Act, 1867. This is in accordance with the fact that gambling and betting are exclusively State subjects within the meaning of Article 246 and are described under Entry No.34 of List II of the Seventh Schedule. Therefore for the definition of gaming or gambling as applicable to each State, one must peruse the applicable State Legislation on gaming or gambling.
The Supreme Court of India in one of its landmark verdicts in 1996 stated that
“A competition which substantially depends on skill is not gaming. Gaming is the act or practice of gambling on a game of chance. It is staking on chance where chance is the controlling factor. Gaming in two Acts would, therefore, mean wagering or betting on games of chance. .”
Game of skill is defined as playing a game where luck has little or no role to play and the winner is entirely determined by the intellect and skill of the player.
Section 12 of the Public Gambling Act exempts games of skill from the penal provisions against gambling. Playing a game of skill would be permissible as there is no other statute that criminalizes or punishes playing of such games of skill. This section is generally reproduced in most State Legislations on the subject, barring a few exceptions like Assam and Odisha.
The Supreme Court of India a in one of its verdicts in 1996 concluded that games involving a ‘substantial or preponderant’ degree of skill would amount to games of ‘mere skill’.
The West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competition Act 1957 expressly excludes bridge, poker, rummy, and nap from the definition of gambling or gambling.
Placing reliance on exemption of the game of poker from the definition of gambling in West Bengal and decisions of the Supreme Court of India, one may conclude that playing poker and other similar card games for the legitimate forms of consideration would be permitted due to the overt element of skill involved in these games.