Indians have generally preferred playing card games such as rummy and grab over poker but the younger generation have caught on to the growing popularity of poker and as a result live poker and online poker operators are looking at expanding into the Indian market.
As of now only Goa, Sikkim and Daman allow live casinos to operate in their respective states but Maharashtra and Karnataka have been considering amending their gambling laws to allow offshore and onshore casinos to operate. The State of Kerala has now announced that its state government is also pondering the possibility of legalizing poker on the basis that it is a game of skill and not of chance.
Should Kerala decide to amend its 40 year old gaming law and legalize poker, a number of gambling operators would be interested in entering ‘God’s own Country’ and setting up their poker operations. The poker industry would generate a significant amount of revenue in the form of gaming licenses and gambling taxes for the state government which can then be used for further development in the state.
However there are conflicting reports from within the state government with some legislators in favour of poker being legalized as it would help to boost tourism numbers. Kerala is one of the most friendly tourist states in the country and has used ‘value-based tourism’ to attract foreigners from all parts of the world. The Tourism Information Officer of Kerala Tourism, Mr. Muraleedharan P was against legalizing the poker in the state.
Muraleedharan stated that Kerala had successfully leveraged its ‘value-based tourism’ marketing strategy over the years to account for a ten percent growth in tourism on an annual basis and did not need the casino industry to boost tourism numbers.
Jaya Sayta, a gaming law activist and the founder of Glaws.in has continued to campaign for the legalization of poker in states like Maharashtra and Kerala on the basis that poker is a game of skill and not of chance and hence must be permitted. In a statement, Sayta said “It would be end any ambiguity on the legality of online poker and conclusively end any debate regarding the element of skill involved in the game. Perhaps, the next few months will be crucial for the skill games industry.”
Should the Kerala government decide to move ahead with the legalization of poker in the state, it will face opposition from both religious and opposition political parties.