India is not a gambling-friendly country, although the same may not necessarily apply to online poker in particular. From a legal perspective, everything depends on your local jurisdiction. India’s laws give individual states the autonomy to introduce their own gambling regulations. In certain ways, the poker situation in India is similar to what German and American players currently experience. That said, we won’t take the analogy too far.
On the federal level, Indian laws are quite dated and are so open to interpretation as to make them practically irrelevant.
Online Poker Laws & Restrictions In India
The most important legal document pertaining to real-money gaming in India is the federal Public Gambling Act of 1867, which makes it illegal for anyone to run a public gaming house or even to be present in an establishment of this sort. However, this law applies exclusively to games of chance. There are two legal precedents which indicate poker is generally considered a game of skill in India.
The first precedent dealt with Rummy. The court decided, despite the fact that the card game involves an element of chance, the skill of participating players has more of an impact on the outcome. The second, more important precedent was set following a raid on a poker club.
The Madras High Court handled the case. It ruled the skill element was more important than the luck of the draw, thus clearing everyone involved in any charges. Another important document is the Information Technology Act of 2000, which makes a distinction between casino games and card games.
All of this sounds like good news. Nevertheless, the truth is there’s nothing to stop other Indian courts from ignoring these precedents and assuming a different point of view, especially if it would be more in line with their local regulations.
What is or is not legal in India?
Due to the reasons outlined above, ascertaining the legal status of online poker sites in most Indian states is nearly impossible. In most cases, the country’s legislative and judicial branches haven’t tackled the issue yet. The only states that don’t match this picture are Goa and Sikkim.
Goa is a fairly gambling-friendly place, at least by Indian standards. It hosts several land-based casinos. Plus, local regulations openly permit gambling as long as it’s limited to “electronic amusement.” One could question whether online poker falls into this category, but most experts seem to agree online poker enthusiasts have little to worry about.
Then, Sikkim stands as the only Indian state with clear-cut online poker regulations and licensed online poker rooms. The largest of those rooms even has its own roster of sponsored players. It also has a solid selection of games, which include some exotic, India-specific poker variants, such as Crazy Pineapple and Lazy Pineapple.
The minimum legal gambling age in India is 18.
India and poker-related taxes
Despite the dubious legal status of online poker in India, most experts agree if playing for real money is indeed legal, players have to pay a 30 percent income tax on all winnings above 10,000 rupees. Unlike gambling-specific laws, tax regulations are uniform across the country.
Where can I play poker online in India?
Sikkim-licensed sites like adda52.com aside, India-based players tend to play on the most popular international poker networks. Those include PokerStars, 888poker, Spartanpoker, and PartyPoker. Poker operators are perfectly aware of the fact that neither the federal government nor state-level authorities are interested in going after individual Indian poker enthusiasts. Consequently, Indian players are free to join the best cash games and tournaments available on the internet.
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