There is bad news for Indian poker players in the state of Tamil Nadu. A recent ruling has made online poker illegal in the state. Online poker’s legal status in Tamil Nadu has been a long-standing issue, but it was brought to the fore earlier this month following reports of suicides that were linked to gambling.
False Hopes?
In July, there had been hopes that Tamil Nadu could legalize online poker after the Madras High Court recommended a comprehensive regulatory framework for the game, in order to curb illegal activities and at the same time draw significant investment into the sector. The legal proceedings relate to the case between the local police force and an individual who was arrested for playing rummy for money.
During that time, Justice B Pugalendhi said the court wasn’t totally opposed to card games or sports betting, citing India’s long history of card games, only that the industry needed a regulator to protect consumers.
The court handed out a similar ruling recently after concerns were raised over reports of gambling-related suicides, proposing that the state could put in place gambling regulations instead of an outright ban. But Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and the AIADMK government ultimately decided to criminalize the activity, making online poker, online wagering, and rummy illegal in the state.
Violations & Punishments
Lawmakers have laid out the potential offenses and their corresponding punishment in a new ordinance, the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, which makes changes to the existing Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930.
Under the new rules, those caught playing online poker in Tamil Nadu could be slapped with a fine of up to $135, be put behind bars for two years, or both. The new ordinance also now includes cyber cafes as a place where gambling can occur (referred to as common gaming houses), and the penalties for owners and operators have also been increased.
The ordinance prohibits anyone from placing bets in the internet through the use of computers, networks, and other communication devices and gaming instruments. Moreover, owners of gaming houses could face up to five years in prison if found guilty. If the offence was committed by a company, those at the helm, including executives will be held liable.
However, the ordinance also states that games of skill are excluded from such provisions. This could serve as legal basis to convince the government to reverse its decision regarding online poker, as the game is widely considered a game based on skill. But the job won’t be easy though, as it would require an ample amount of time, money and resources.
India is home to a huge population of 1.3 billion, making it among the most promising online poker markets in the world. The number of local players getting drawn into the game has also continued to increase over the years, but legal barriers such as what has recently unfolded in Tamil Nadu is stunting the industry’s growth.
Poker Sports League Attracts Major Streaming Platforms
Amid these challenges, it’s great to know that efforts are continuing to change the nation’s perception about poker. Online poker sites have been consistently offering new games and tournaments to players, and also not long ago, the country’s first poker league was created.
The Poker Sports League is approaching its third season, and now it has caught the attention of various streaming platforms that are looking to collaborate with the league for its upcoming online tournament. Disney+ Hotstar, Jio TV, MX Player, Voot, and Zee5 are currently in talks with organizers for the tournament’s streaming rights.
These companies definitely recognize India’s online poker potential and are keen on capitalizing on the game’s growing popularity in the country.
The third season of Poker Sports League will get underway on January 16. The league was launched in 2016 with a goal to inject a sporting element to the game of poker. The competition adopts a team-based format and is usually held as a live event. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament will now take place online.