November 23 Court Ruling to Define Poker in India

September 20th, 2017 | by Jason Reynolds

The fate of poker in India could change dramatically on November 23 when the Gujarat High Court delivers its verdict on the skill aspect of the game.

The Gujarat High Court Poker.

The fate of poker in India will be decided inside the Gujarat High Court on November 23. (Image: financialexpress.com/PTI)

Following the conclusion of three hearings on September 15, 18 and 19, Justice Rajesh Shukla will now consider the relationship between luck and skill in poker.

The latest hearings form part of a larger case that’s aiming to establish a legal precedent for poker clubs in the Gujarat region.

What is Poker?

Under the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, poker is defined as gambling alongside casino and other betting-style games. At the heart of the case are 15 poker clubs that have seen their games broken up by local law enforcement agents in recent years.

When Justice Shukla delivers his verdict on November 23, he will do so after reviewing a myriad of evidence from club owners, legal experts and players. In a statement submitted to the High Court back in October 2016, the Indian Poker Association (IPA) made the case that gambling isn’t the name of the game.

“Since poker is not gambling, it is not under the ambit of the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1987. The expression Poker does not form part of gaming or gambling,” read the IPA’s submission.

Following this move, Senior Counsels Mihir Thakore and SV Raju used a combination of expert testimony, empirical facts and international precedents to support the idea poker is a skill game.

Did the Pros Tip the Balance?

The two industry representatives then played their played their trump card on September 8 by persuading Justice Shukla to take evidence from Abhishek Goindi and Aditya Wadhwani.

The poker pros have more than $300,000 in live earnings between them and used their time in the spotlight to talk through some of the game’s basic concepts. Using recorded tournament footage, the players highlighted the tactical and mathematical decisions that went into each move they made.

At this point, all the talking is over and, when Justice Shukla reconvenes the High Court, the outcome could result in one of two things. Either the judge sides with those in the industry and declares poker a game of skill and, therefore, exempt from the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act. Or, he maintains the legal opinion that poker is gambling and rules that events held by the state’s 15 clubs are illegal.

Should the latter happen, those involved have already stated that they will lodge an immediate appeal with the division bench of the High Court. 

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