The principal enactment concerned with the regulation of gaming or gambling in India is the Public Gambling Act, 1867 (“PGA”). However, as the Constitution of India authorizes States to legislate on betting and gambling, there are a number of states which have promulgated their own enactments concerned with the offer of gaming and gambling services within such states.
The PGA criminalises the act of ‘gambling’ in a public forum in India and the keeping of a ‘common gaming house’. However the PGA makes an important exemption for games of skill from the prohibitive ambit of the PGA. This treatment of gambling and exemption for games of skill is reflected in a number of other state statutes as well.
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.”
The PGA distinguishes between betting on a “game of chance” and staking on a “game of skill” by expressly exempting “games of skill” from its penal provisions against gambling. Most state gambling legislations are in consonance with the PGA, and similarly exempt games where the outcome is predominantly based on skill.
Thus it can be concluded that Indian laws in general differentiate between games of skill and games of chance and specify a strict prohibition on participation and offer of games of chance for stakes, while taking a more favourable position with games of skill. In this regard, it may be noted that the Supreme Court of India 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’ ”.
Further, the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competition Act, 1957, expressly excludes bridge, poker, rummy, and nap from the definition of gaming or gambling.
Therefore, by 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, it can be concluded that playing poker and other similar skill based card games for the legitimate forms of consideration would be permitted due to the overt element of skill involved in these games.
It may be noted that the state legislations of Telangana, Assam, and Odisha do not permit the playing of ‘games of skill’ for money (“Excluded States”).
If any User residing in the Excluded States is found to be participating in any Real Money Games on the Platform or registers by giving false information, the User will be solely liable in such instance and the Company reserves the right to terminate the User Account without any further notice and refund and/or block any unused funds credited into such User’s account. In the event of such breach, the Company also reserves the right to forfeit any winnings or Bonus Amounts as the case may be. The Company or the Platform operated by the Company will not be liable for Users' breach of applicable State laws.