Ludo a game of luck or skill? Bombay HC to decide

Published on:

An innocuous board game we played as children for recreational purposes during holidays has now landed in the eye of storm with its fate in the hands of the Bombay High Court. Yes, we are talking about Ludo or more precisely Ludo for mobile involving stakes.

Ludo is not a recent invention. As it happens, the concept also traces back to the ancient times when it was called Pachisi as mentioned in ancient epic Mahabharata. The principal objection of the petition filed by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Keshav Mule is that Ludo is a game of chance and therefore should be treated as gambling when played for stakes.

This pervasive question often dawns on players during the game. Did the winner use clever and comprehensive strategy or lucked his way to victory?

Courtesy of the petition against Cashgrail Private Limited, the company that owns the app, implying that it promotes gambling; this question is all set to be answered by judiciary now.

Ludo involving stakes

Pandemic-induced lockdowns rendered people immobile for the most part, leading to a spike in the consumption of indoor games like Ludo on mobile.

Only last year, Ludo King received a whopping 500 million downloads worldwide which, figuratively speaking, made game developers’ and RMG platform owners’ jaws drop. With the advent of the lockdown, gaming platforms like WinZO, Paytm First Games started cashing in on the popularity by arranging small Ludo tournaments to engage users.

While some created new Ludo apps with advanced graphics and fancy layouts, RMG platforms integrated the game on their platforms, promising a chance to earn money.

Case in point, when IPL 2020 was postponed and all sporting events were cancelled, fantasy sports platform Playerzpot introduced casual games (including Ludo, Snake and Ladders and so on) to ensure that their revenue doesn’t come to a grinding halt.

This marked the entry of our innocent little board came venture into the dreaded territory of what the petitioner perceives as gambling. The issue begins to look even more problematic when the argument of kids playing games involving financial risks is invoked.

What does the petition say?

Mule’s petition file claims that people are playing with money on the Ludo Supreme app, which violates section 3, 4, and 5 of the Gambling Prohibition Act.

According to him, this calls for action to be taken against the stakeholders of the application. The petitioner explained that if four people are playing the game by betting Rs 5 each which in total becomes Rs 20, the winner of the game receives Rs 17, while the company receives Rs 3.

As of now, the court has issued notice to the state government in this matter and the hearing is pending on 22 June 2021. Initially the petition was filed at the Magistrate Court, which refused to direct the registration of an FIR citing that Ludo is predominantly a game of skill.

Before the bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Abhay Ahuja of the Holiday Court, the petitioner played up the urgency and demanded swift action. On being asked as to what makes this an urgent matter, Advocate Nikhil Mengde replied that the Ludo game is twisted and is essentially a form of gambling which is tantamount to social evil and moral decline. According to him, an immediate intervention of the court is expected as many with the propensity to gambling can fall prey to it.

The petitioner had earlier failed to lodge a complaint at the VP Road police station. Following the petitioner’s move to file a personal complaint at the Magistrate Court, the trial court had deemed Ludo as a game of skill and did not order registration of an FIR.

We can’t say what the final verdict is likely to be, however one thing is certain – the impact of Bombay High Court’s decision will not just be felt by Ludo Supreme but a bunch of real money Ludo apps in the queue.