Thanks to ambiguous laws, online poker websites are flourishing in India

Action against online gambling is difficult as all gambling websites are hosted in countries, where the practice is legal

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BS Reporter New Delhi
Of late various online gambling websites in India have gained traction as they allow players to play with real money. Experts suggest that the current size of this new industry is around $120 million and it is growing every year.

Though all gambling practices are banned in India under the Public Gambling Act 1867, it was left to the state governments to formulate their own laws and rules regarding gambling. While Goa and Sikkim legalised gambling in casinos and in other forms, many states passed legislation for selling lottery tickets. 

After independence, the courts have also exempted horse racing and rummy from the Public Gambling Act considering them as skill plays.

Gambling websites argue that the games played on their platform involve skilled players, who use strategy and tactics to win the game. This ambiguity makes is it difficult to control them.

Jay Sayta, secretary of the All India Gaming Federation, said: “The online skill game industry, which includes poker, rummy and some other games, has been growing at a healthy pace since 2008. There are several big companies, including companies run by bollywood stars, that have started their online gaming ventures. Contrary to the popular perception, not all card games are illegal, card games involving a substantial amount of skill and intellect can be played legally, even with money and profits involved. There have been several Supreme Court and high court judgments to this effect, and laws in some states very clearly elucidate this principle.”

It is also difficult to take action against these websites under the Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules of 2011 that prohibits money laundering and online gambling. This is because the gambling is not defined in the rules. Moreover all gambling websites are hosted in countries where gambling is legal, making it further difficult for Indian sleuths to take any legal or remedial action against them.
Media reports suggest that there are at least 10-15 gaming websites, which are being frequented by Indian players.

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First Published: Nov 04 2016 | 4:15 PM IST

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