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An Analysis Of Online Card Gaming In India

Since the Mahabharata card games have been a hot-button issue, both officially and illegally. Nowadays, because the law prohibits money transactions depending on fate, the hazards of a game involving consideration are treated more seriously than they were in the past. It's imperative that regulations governing internet access be enforced in light of the ease with which it can be accessed by anyone. Those in a nation like India, where literacy is low, are more likely to hunt for ways to make quick money, hence regulations governing this need to be treated seriously.

Online Gaming: What Are The Legal Conditions?

Offline as well as online types of gaming and gambling, including the game of skill and indeed the game of chance, are each recognised by law. Gambling doesn't include games of chance, such as poker or chess. Each state can decide on its own whether or not an activity is a "game of skill." As a general rule, most states allow games of skill to be excluded from their gambling laws because of a lack of precise definition or enumeration of which games fit into this category.

As a result, what is legal in one state but illegal in another is possible. Several Indian states, notably Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, have ratified the "Public Gambling Act of 1867"[1], which is the central law in this area. As a result, several Indian states have enacted similar legislation to control gaming and gambling.

While internet gambling has been legal in India for some time now, state legislatures still refer to "gambling" primarily in the context of "physical premises," with the exception of Nagaland and Sikkim having passed legislation specifically addressing the legality of online gambling. Various Indian states, excluding Odisha and Assam, have removed 'games of skill' from the operation of their gaming/gambling legislation when it comes to internet gambling.

Playing "Poker online or in person" are legal in Sikkim, Nagaland and West Bengal, but only with permission from the appropriate state authorities. Nonetheless, this will only take place inside the state's borders. At Goa, you can only gamble in casinos that have been approved by the government.

Judicial Creativity With Respect To Online Card Games

An Indian Supreme Court decision in 1968, in the judgement of "State of Andhra Pradesh vs. K. Satyanarayana,"[2] declared "Rummy to be a game of skill." As a result, the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled that if the gaming establishment makes money from Rummy, it is breaking the law. This game, which runs by many nicknames, like flush, brag, and many more, is a purely chance game.

If ever a game is played for finances, it isn't gambling, according to the Court in the decision of "Gaussian Network Pvt. Ltd. vs. Monica Lakhanpal."[3] However, online games can't be compared to real-world games because they don't meet the definition of gambling. Aside from that, the Supreme Court ruled that utilizing prize money to encourage business or entice gamers is prohibited, and if internet sites are taking a piece of the winning hand, this is illegal since they seem to be a virtual gambling establishment.

No court in India had ever meticulously discussed whether Poker is a "game of skill" or "game of chance" well before the judgement of "Dominance Games Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Gujarat." [4]Poker was found to be a "game of chance under the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887," and consequently a form of gambling.

Gamers in Poker really have no authority or claim over the cards they receive, and the final outcome is completely determined by chance or destiny, depending on how well the cards are negotiated. The Jury made this observation. Poker is a form of bluffing / lying, even the "tactic" of throwing on a poker face isn't really a skill.

A player's option of spending money and the size of his bank account also have a role in the outcome. However, Rummy differs from poker in that it involves bluffing and deceiving your opponents in order to win. Rummy, on the other hand, does not feature stakes or necessitate wagering, unlike Poker, which does.

Whenever it pertains to card games, online and offline gambling regulations should be the same because it doesn't matter if the money is being exchanged online or offline.

It is clear from all of the rulings that courts believe that gambling that relies more on chance than ability is unlawful. These rulings demonstrate once again that any card game arrangement including mandatory stakes and also no skill will be judged illegal.

Once a game has already been identified as a game of skill, even so, playing it with stakes isn't really illegal, as we saw in the decision of "Gaussian Network Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Monica Lakhanpal." When something refers to financial transactions, the Court throughout this instance made it plain that playing skill games offline and online isn't the same thing. However, because this lawsuit was withdrawn, it could not serve as a precedent.

Even if such unlawful gambling isn't outlawed, it will still happen, because illegal gambling that is carried out in secret generates untaxed revenue. Aside from Nagaland, no other state has strict regulations on games of skill; instead, the industry governs itself. There should be a legal structure in place for gambling in a nation like India, where illiteracy encourages individuals to look for easier methods to make money.

For example, the Rummy Federation has its own self-regulation standards for advertising, playing, taxation, and so on. It's worth noting that throughout the shutdown, different online games were advertised as being playable 24/7 on these platforms and that they might be utilised to alleviate social or financial concerns. In order for online gambling to be lawful, the government is required to become involved.

Conclusion
There are several debates on the internet over whether or not illegal gambling should indeed be outlawed. It's a much more balanced opinion for the very same reason that illicit gambling is conducted underground and generates black money, that this will happen anyway. It is easier to deal with a gambling problem like tax evasion if there are rules in place. Aside from Nagaland, neither state has strict regulations on games of skill; instead, the industry governs itself.

To be clear, I am not advocating that the Indian government should pass laws on everything and anything. But given the high rate of illiteracy in the continent, it makes sense that the Indian government would benefit from some sort of legal framework. For example, the Rummy Federation has its own self-regulation standards for advertising, playing, taxation, and so on.

A further notable example is online ludo. Fate and talent have a role in Ludo, in my opinion, as dice numbers are determined based on a player's skill. While the lockdown was in effect, the game was advertised as being able to be played at any time of day or night on various platforms and as a means of solving social or financial issues. In order for online gambling to be lawful, the government needs to become involved.

End-Notes:
  1. https://www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/2269?sam_handle=123456789/1362
  2. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/84963/
  3. https://www.itlaw.in/gaussian-network-pvt-ltd-v-monica-lakhanpal-another-2012/
  4. https://www.casemine.com/judgement/in/5ac5e3024a932619d90414f8/amp#aoh=16514884782669&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&_tf=From%20%251%24s&_agsa_csa=49326498&_ct=1651488554771
Written By: Adv. Shashwata Sahu - LL.M., KIIT School of Law

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