The use of online rummy games, especially amongst youngsters, has erroneously increased over the time. Many queries have been received by us, by both the sects of people i.e., by the people who are playing such games and from the people who are running such mobile applications or web pages as well. Accordingly, in this article, we shall study about the legality of rummy games in India.
Now, before moving forward, let us examine what is “gaming” and even if it is legal in India to play such gambling or betting games.
Gaming is an inclusive definition which includes a game of chance and skill combined or a pretended game of chance or of chance and skill combined.
There are no central laws against gambling or betting in India. The Public Gambling Act, 1867 does not prohibit gambling or betting, it merely prohibits and prescribes punishment. However, legality of rummy or betting games in India is purely a state specific matter.
WHAT IS A GAME OF SKILL?
It is pertinent to mention that the said Act will not apply to the “game of skill” i.e. it is a game where the outcome is determined mainly by mental or physical skill, rather than by chance. Wherever, a game of chance is one where its outcome is strongly influenced by some randomizing device, such as dice, spinning tops, playing cards, roulette wheels, or numbered balls drawn from a container. While a game of chance may have some skill element to it, chance generally plays a greater role in determining its outcome. A game of skill may also may have elements of chance, but skill plays a greater role in determining its outcome.
WHETHER RUMMY GAMES ARE A GAME OF SKILL?
Considering various judgements by the Hon’ble Courts of different states, it can be very well opined that Rummy Game inculcate the skills to hold or throw a card for a desired pair and thus the Rummy is “Game of Skill” legally valid in India but as Gambling is a state subject therefore certain prohibition under State laws will be applicable in Rummy Games also.
STATUS OF STATE GAMBLING LAWS:
The Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016, has excluded the staking of money on games of skill from the ambit of gambling. Also, a license has to be obtained for conducting such games, within its boundaries in the prescribed format.
The Telangana Gaming (Amendment) Act, 2017, prohibits all forms of gaming for money, be it games of skill which include rummy or games of chance.
The Govt. of Tamil Nadu passed an Ordinance dated 06.02.2021 banning the Online Games. The Ordinance States that “no person shall wager or bet in games like rummy or similar games played online using computers or any communication device or any other instrument of gaming. Also, no one shall facilitate or organize games involving gambling in the cyberspace”.
The Kerala government issued a notification earlier this year in the Month of February, (23.02.2021) clarifying that online rummy when played for stakes does not enjoy exemption from the general prohibition of gaming and gambling.
Assam does not permit any games where a person stakes money. The Assam Game and Betting Act, 1970 does not permit staking of money or money’s worth on the happening or determination of an unascertained event, thing or contingency for or in relation to any game or sport etc. It is also illegal to conduct any business venture allowing participants to play even skill games for money.
6. ANDHRA PRADESH:
The Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974 prohibits the Online Rummy, Poker and other Online Games in which Money is staked It also states that organisers of online gambling would be jailed for a year, besides being penalised, for a first-time offence. The jail term would go up to two years with fine for the second offence. Also, those caught playing the online games would attract a jail term of six months.
The Section 3 (2) of The Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 states that no Online Games shall be played, organised or exhibited to any person at any public place, except through Online Gambling Website in respect of which licence is granted in accordance with the provision of this act and such licence is in force.
Orissa Prevention of Gambling Act, 1956 states that house, room, tent, enclosure, vehicle, vessel or other place used for gaming purpose are considered as common gaming house. A person who owns such a gaming house (house, room, tent, enclosure, vehicle, vessel or other gaming places) or gaming instrument for profit-making is an offender.
Except the aforesaid states, the Online Rummy Games are still legal and considered as pure Game of Skill. However, there are writ petitions to state laws banning online rummy pending in the States of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
From the above following proposition and discussion, it can easily conclude and understood the following:
1. Betting or gambling is not illegal or prohibited in India.
2. What is illegal is running or maintaining “common gaming houses for gains or stakes”.
3. None of the prohibitions apply if the game is a “game of mere skill”.
4. Gaming and betting are a State Subject and it has wide power to regulate the Gambling, betting and gaming industry in order to protect its people.
Also, it is advisable for the Companies operating in such games from federations like The Online Rummy Game Federation (TORF), Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), etc.
(The author i.e., Kajal Goyal is a Company Secretary in Practice at M/s. Kajal Goyal and Associates and can be reached at (M) +91-9999952595 and (E) [email protected])