Poker is growing in popularity with every passing month in India but its legality is still a big question in most Indian states. This is because most states have strict gaming laws that only limit players to games of skill, completely excluding games of chance. A good example of this is the state of Gujarat.
The Indian Poker Association (IPA) has been fighting hard to convince legislators that poker must be termed as a game of skill. They have taken their case to court but the case has continued to be delayed for different reasons.
Next Hearing In February 2020
In another delay, the Gujarat High Court has decided to defer the appeal hearing for the status changes a second time. This is frustrating since the struggle to get poker reclassified as a game of skill has been going on for years. Starting in 2017, the case has inched its way through the Gujarat court system. Many thought that it would be over by December 2019. However, the appeal hearing was rescheduled for January 8, 2020.
With the arrival of the hearing date, it seems that poker players in Gujarat have to wait a bit more. Both Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice AJ Shastri decided that the hearing has to be deferred. There is a silver lining to the decision though.
A clause in the adjournment ordered that when the appeal hearing opens on February 17, daily hearings about the topic have to happen. It seems that the High Court is finally tired of the issue hanging over their heads and want it cleared up without any further delays.
Long Legal Battle
The IPA has long been fighting this battle for a long time. It started when it filed an appeal for its clubs in Gujarat to reclassify poker as a game of skill so that it can be played legally. The Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act of 1887 specifically disallows games of chance, like how poker is classified now.
However, India is a big market for poker with millions of poker players ready to play. With the increased interest in poker games in states like Nagaland, the IPA tried to change poker’s classification throughout the country but has met with the same resistance as it is facing in Gujarat. The Association had the backing of several gaming companies in its efforts.
The initial hearings in Gujarat took place between July to September 2017. The judge presiding, Justice Rajesh H. Shukla disagreed with the Poker Association’s argument. But the Association decided to appeal the decision and it has now reached the High Court.
A change would be a good thing for the Gujarat poker market but it looks to be a long shot. This is saddening considering the Indian poker market is exploding in other states. With proper regulations, India can see a big boom in online poker with significant revenue coming in for state governments.