Is it legal to play online rummy, online poker, fantasy sports in Tamil Nadu?

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In February 2021, the Tamil Nadu government brought in a law that categorized online gaming stakes as a punishable offense in the state.

The amendment to the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act invited imprisonment up to two years or a fine not exceeding Rs 10,000 or both if found participating in online rummy, online poker, and fantasy sports for stakes.

Thereby, the residents of Tamil Nadu were not allowed to play and earn money, legally, on fantasy sports platforms like Dream11, MyTeam11, MPL, or on online rummy platforms like RummyCircle, etc.

Madras High Cout rules Tamil Nadu law banning online poker, rummy with stakes illegal

The Madras High Court on 3 August 2021 struck down in its entirety the amendment to the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act which banned online games including online rummy and online poker with stakes, which essentially means residents of the state can now legally play online games like poker, rummy fantasy sport for stakes.

Jay Sayta, a technology lawyer who appeared in the online gaming matter said, “The Madras High Court has struck down provisions of the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 which prohibited and criminalized playing online games for a bet, wager, or other stakes. These provisions had obliterated the differentiation between games of skill and chance, which runs contrary to well-established jurisprudence laid down by the Supreme Court.

The court has accepted that running online games falls under the right to carry on trade and commerce guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and has asked the state government to introduce a proportionate, balanced, and least-intrusive legislation to regulate the online skill-gaming industry if they so desire. The historic verdict is a boost for the nascent and burgeoning online gaming industry.”

Hence, as of today, residents of Tamil Nadu can legally play for stakes on websites like RummyCircle, PokerBaazi, Dream11, MPL among others.

Rummy a game of skill

A 1968 Supreme Court has ruled that rummy is a game of skill.

“Rummy, on the other hand, requires a certain amount of skill because the fall of the cards has to be memorized and the building up of Rummy requires considerable skill in holding and discarding cards. We cannot, therefore, say that the game of Rummy is a game of entire chance. It is mainly and preponderantly a game of skill. The chance in Rummy is of the same character as the chance in a deal at a game of bridge.”

There is another Supreme Court ruling from 1996.

“A game of skill, on the other hand – although the element of chance necessarily cannot be entirely eliminated –is one in which success depends principally upon the superior knowledge, training, attention, experience and adroitness of the player. Golf, chess and even Rummy are considered to be games of skill. The Courts have reasoned that there are few games, if any, which consist purely of chance or skill, and as such a game of chance is one in which the element of chance predominates over the element of skill, and a game of skill is one in which the element of skill predominates over the element of chance. It is the dominant element –“skill” or “chance” — which determines the character of the game.”

Does a game of skill enjoy any other legal protection?

The Supreme Court, in 1957, stated that prize competition involving substantial skills are business activities that are protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

Is it legal to play online rummy for money?

Based on several Supreme Court rulings and the Gaming Acts of India, one can deduce that rummy is a game of skill, hence playing it for cash does not amount to gambling, thereby exempting the participants from penal provisions of most gambling acts. Hence it is perfectly legal to play online rummy for cash across all Indian states except Assam, Odisha, Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, and Sikkim.