The Gujarat High court quashed a petition to allow poker rooms and poker-play in community clubs in Gujarat. Samit Bharabhai Patel, the owner of a club in Gujarat, had filed a special criminal petition asking the Court to direct the local police and the Department of Sports and Culture to issue a ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) or grant his club a license so that he can smoothly run a poker and rummy room in his club. Mr. Patel validated his petition arguing that poker and rummy come under skill and strategy based card games and his club would simply provide the players with a peaceful gaming room with no illegalities involved. The petitioner also requested the High Court to see to the matter that the local police and other local bodies do not intervene in the proceedings of the poker room.

However, the High Court was not convinced and a single judge bench headed by Justice JB Pardiwala dismissed the case at the admission level, without additional justification, on Friday, 17th November.

The state government’s argument against the legalization of such card games has always been based on the notion of categorizing poker under ‘gambling’. The legalizing of poker, they argue, would only expose people to great financial risks and may lead to the ruining of the existent peaceful family set up, due to addiction.

Under The Public Gambling Act 1867, which has been amended over time, Section 12 reads – “Act not to apply to certain games. Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Act contained shall be held to apply to any game of mere skill wherever played”.  These guidelines have often been misinterpreted owing to the underlying ambiguity.

Unfortunately the last verdict of the Supreme Court in this regard stated that, strategic card games are legal in India, but it missed out on properly defining what ‘strategic games’ are. The Supreme Court has, however, left the final say on the criminalizing or decriminalizing of such card games to the states and the respective state governments.

Gujarat High Court
Gujarat High Court

A separate bench of the Gujarat High Court headed by Justice Shukla, is expected to give a detailed verdict on the petition on the legality of poker, submitted jointly by a number of poker clubs, on the 23rd of November 2017. The petition has been filed by KN Suresh (on behalf of the Indian Poker Association), AAA Gaming, Hotel Ramada, Dominance Games Pvt. Ltd.  and other poker clubs.

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