TN can’t ban online rummy, poker: Madras HC

While the apex court had already ruled that rummy and poker are games of skill, the state had failed to demonstrate that online games of rummy and poker are different and distinct from offline games.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

CHENNAI:  A division bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday ruled that the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Act, 2022, will not apply to online games of skill such as rummy and poker but the government can regulate online games.

Passing the order on a batch of petitions filed against the Act by the Online Gaming Federation and others, the bench of Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice PD Audikesavalu said, “The writ petition is partly allowed. The schedule of the Act, including rummy and poker, is set aside.” 

While the apex court had already ruled that rummy and poker are games of skill, the state had failed to demonstrate that online games of rummy and poker are different and distinct from offline games. “The apprehension that bots may be used or dealer (software) would know the cards is not based on any substantive material. In view thereof, the schedule under Section 23 (of the Act) incorporating rummy and poker as games of chance is set aside,” the bench said. 

The court rejected the prayer to declare the entire Act as ultra vires and upheld the validity of the Act. 
The bench said the state is ‘competent’ to legislate to the extent of prohibiting online gambling i.e. games of chance and has the authority to ‘regulate’ online games of skill. The state could not even remotely demonstrate tampering of software or any device that would take away the games of rummy and poker from the contour of games of skill, the judges said. “Instead of regulating online games of skill the state has simply prohibited them,” the HC bench said.  

Online rummy requires the same brain activity as offline games

“We are now transcending into the era of digitisation world and entertainment. People instead of playing in clubs are now playing online. With the rise of internet connectivity, we see spurt in online games. In online games of rummy and poker, the same brain activity would be involved as required in offline games,” the bench said.

The petitioners wanted the high court to quash the Act but the Tamil Nadu government justified the legislation saying that these unrestricted games are hurting the society and youngsters are getting addicted to these games as well as losing money. The government also pointed out that some players of these games committed suicide after incurring huge losses. 

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