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India Keeps Close Eye on Poker as Skill Argument

While the debate over poker as a game of skill is battled in courtrooms in the U.S., the conclusions reached may have far-reaching effects in other regions of the world.

One of those jurisdictions is India, where poker has been gaining popularity. Whether poker is legal in India is still a somewhat grey and unresolved dilemma. Which is why court decisions that look favorably on the game in the U.S. could have an influence on the way India’s government chooses to go toward regulating poker both online and live.

“Since there is a huge debate in India regarding the legality of poker and the degree of skill involved in card games like rummy and poker, the elaborate and exhaustive opinion by (U.S.) federal judge Weinstein, taking into account testimonies of expert statisticians and economists, will have a great deal of persuasive value on Indian and other courts in deciding the fate of poker,” stated Jay Sayta, a student at the National University of Juridical Sciences.

A recent KPMG report found that a growing amount of online gambling is enjoyed by citizens of India, although the country lacks any regulatory standards. Should the powers that be decide to legalize online poker and/or gambling, the potential for profit could be enormous.

India has a population of more than 1.2 billion. It ranks second in the world in that regard to China, with projections of reaching first place by 2025. More than half of India residents are currently under 25 years of age and more than 65% are under 35. By 2020, an Indian’s average age will be 29, while the average age in China will be 37.

Imagine the possible growth of online poker player pools if India joined other countries in legalizing Internet poker. As it stands now, the Federal Information Technology Act was enacted in 2011 in an attempt to prohibit online gambling. The onus of blocking access to gaming sites located offshore was put on Internet service providers.

But those laws are difficult to enforce due to the gambling sites being located beyond India’s jurisdiction. Indian citizens are still sought and subject to marketing efforts of gaming sites even though the government of India views online poker and gambling as taboo.

The World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker are aired on sports channels in India, which has resulted in many of the country’s younger generation in taking up poker.

“Most youngsters play poker,” Ahmedabad businessman Krutin Parikh told the Times of India, although he asked that his name be changed for his own protection. “Everybody is familiar with the rules, playing on Facebook also gives people practice.”

It may be awhile before poker reaches mainstream society in India and the government changes its views on online poker and gambling. However, should poker win the ‘game of skill’ debate that poker players know very well to be true, the game’s legality and acceptance in what will someday be the world’s most populous country may happen sooner rather than later.


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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.