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Are online poker games ‘gambling’ or ‘game of skill’, Bombay HC asks state govt

Last week, a division bench of Justice V K Jadhav and Justice S C More was hearing a PIL that sought to restrain the "illegal activity" of conduct of a game of poker on online and offline avenues.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: January 18, 2022 7:32:59 am
Bombay HC, Pimpri Chinchwad, PCMC, BMC, Election Commission, Mumbai, Mumbai news, Indian express, Indian express news, Mumbai latest newsThe petitioner claimed that he was aggrieved by the inaction of the state Home department, due to which private gaming companies were passing this game off as a "game of skill." (File)

The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently asked the Maharashtra government to state its position on whether an online poker game amounts to gambling or if it was a game of skill.

Last week, a division bench of Justice V K Jadhav and Justice S C More was hearing a PIL — filed by social activist Munawar Ahmed and argued through advocate Ajay S Deshpande — which sought to restrain the “illegal activity” of conduct of a game of poker on online and offline avenues.

The petitioner claimed that he was aggrieved by the inaction of the state Home department, due to which private gaming companies were passing this game off as a “game of skill.”

The conduct of a game of poker by these companies was fundamentally driven by the concept of “wagering” as well as “betting”, leading to “addiction to gambling,” whereas gaming activities are meant to promote “fun and excitement” for people, Ahmed claimed.

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The petition added that considering different stages as well as basic rules of poker, each participant indulges in wagering and betting, thus inadvertently the participants, through private companies, commit acts contrary to the provisions of the gambling prevention law, and thus the game of poker is merely a “game of chance.”

The petitioner sought direction from the court to restrain private companies, which are running online as well as offline poker games, from doing so, and said the state government should take appropriate steps for enforcement of gambling prohibition law.

The petitioner also said that companies providing online gaming services lack effective mechanism to verify the age of persons playing it and “there is a grave possibility that even a minor child may indulge in the said activity.”

After state government lawyer M M Nerlikar sought time to file an affidavit in reply to the plea, the bench allowed the same and posted the matter for further hearing to February 8.

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