The short answer to that question is NO. Playing poker – online poker or poker rooms, is not illegal in India. But, it is more complex than that. That’s basically because according to the Seventh Schedule Entry 34 List II of the Indian constitution, the power lies with the State government to decide on the laws with respect to gambling and games of ‘chance’. It is totally up to the state governments, to prohibit or permit gambling in their state. As a result of the law being so liberal, the actual status of the game across different states varies widely.
Further, when it comes to card games there are a wide variety of approaches. Some card games are considered to be purely ‘games of chance’ – which means that the money you make or lose depends entirely on your fortune. Currently in India, such games classified as ‘gambling’ – are only legal in Goa, Daman, Sikkim and Nagaland.
The government notes that it is very easy for platforms that organize these games to take advantage of the players’ addiction to the games – and loot them of their money – and the players will have no say in it. To protect individuals against such situations, most governments strictly regulate card games that are based purely on luck.
However, if you’re seeking to play poker online – you should know that the Supreme Court has classified certain games such as games on poker websites in India and rummy games, as games of ‘skill’, and not games of ‘chance’. This classification means that it is completely legal to play online poker in India – as the game takes high levels of skill and strategy to actually achieve success. It has been noted by the Supreme Court of India, as well as several other courts that – despite the fact that online poker actually involves a little bit of chance, achievement depends for the most part on the skill and strategy of the user, heavily influenced by things like their preparation, focus, skill and involvement in the game.
However, you must note that the states of Gujarat and Telangana have still reservations on people being allowed to play poker online – so if you live in Gujarat of Telangana – it is still illegal for you to access or play online poker on any poker websites in India, for money.
Having said that – several poker websites in India allow you to enjoy the game without actually investing or earning any actual money on the site. Such sites are allowed to operate, as they do not offer gambling or money-making opportunities – but rather cater to the population who play poker for the love of the game.
So, when you’re looking to play a game of online poker, on poker websites in India, be careful to keep track of the local laws concerning the game-play. We will also keep updating you all with any news concerning poker regulation across the country – so stay tuned!