In the modern times gaming industry has gained rapid popularity, poker being one of the most favourite games. Being a subject matter of respective State jurisdictions, poker can only be legally played for real time money in restricted States throughout India.
The game of Poker
Poker is a card game which requires a player to strategize his/ her moves, exercise experience as well as alertness on the table and skills in calculating the probability. Some of the States namely Delhi, Karnataka, West Bengal, etc. identify poker as a game of skill and not as an act of gamble vide judgments from different courts as well as the local legislations. On the other hand, there are some States in India which do not allow the playing of poker for real time money such as Gujarat, Assam, Odisha, Telangana, etc.
Judicial standpoint of Calcutta High Court
The High Court of Calcutta (Circuit Bench at Jalpaiguri) vide its order dated August 28, 2019, in the matter of Indian Poker Association & Anr. Vs. The State of West Bengal & Ors. has held that there could not be any occasion for the police to interfere in the operations of the Indian Poker Association who rented a room for its members to play the game of poker in a hotel.
In the case, the Petitioner association alleged that the Police Authorities had unnecessarily harassed the Petitioners on the false pretext that there was a legal bar on playing poker. The Petitioner’s also contended that in view of the definition of “gaming or gambling” under Section 2(1)(b) of the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act, 1957, poker was not included either in gaming or gambling and, therefore, if anyone indulged in playing such game without indulging in any other overt act then the same did not attract police interference.
The Hon’ble Court in view of the fact and circumstances in the case, passed an order in favor of the Petitioners and held that the Indian Poker Association was not carrying out any illegal activity by offering the game of poker since it is ipso facto not included within the purview of the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act, 1957.
Where the gaming industry is expanding its wings and poker being one of the most played and sought after game, this judgement reinforces its recognition as a legal activity.