BENGALURU: People in the city are playing poker in a big way and one of the ways they are doing this is through online poker platforms. However, despite the popularity of these platforms, is online poker legal?
In the last four to five years a number of poker portals have started. Presently there are around 15 such portals. The number of users visiting these portals is also in the thousands, say owners of these platforms.
Physical poker clubs in the city are known to have skirmishes with the law. The reason for this is because, in many states, poker is categorised as gambling. While the Karnataka High Court in a ruling in 2013 stated that poker is legal and can be played in recreational clubs, there are still some ambiguities in the law.
Praveen Dwarkanath, founder of the city-based portal, Poker Ninja, says “Our tax is deducted online. There is TDS remittance and every transaction is done through the bank. This makes online portals more than legal and much more safer,” he further points out that one of the biggest problems with physical poker clubs is the credit flow.
“A player wants to recover losses and will ask for unsecured credit. It is a wrong practice and they may sometimes go overboard with the losses which the operators cannot recover. This kills the game and obviously the business,” says Praveen. There are no laws that specifically talk about governing online “gaming” as of now.
Amin Rozani, MD and Co-founder, The Spartan Poker says that globally poker is regarded as a skill based game, and online poker is thriving in over 120 to130 countries. “In India, any start-up in a new area like online poker needs to look at both central and state laws before launching operations to get the adequate licenses and permissions.”
Asked about the reason for the popularity of online poker and he says, that it is due to the convenience of being able to play from anywhere and at anytime, which is not the case with live poker. Secondly, there is a wide range of games and stakes for the players to choose from, with lots of rooms and tables that are available online.and most of all he can start playing online without investing a single rupee.
And the rewards are huge. Praveen says a player can earn 1 lakh by just playing consistently in these portals. “I know a few people who earn about a couple of millions every month. Today we have around 10 big online tournaments. In the last three years there has been an exponential jump in the number of tournaments with prize money worth crores,” he says.