PureWin Casino (Photo Credit: News Nation )
New Delhi :
The right to develop, offer or play one of India’s most popular games has been defended again by high courts because skills matter. Rummy is “a game of mere skill” and “playing for stakes or not can never be a criterion to find out whether a game is a game of skill,” said the Kerala High Court pointing out at the existing practice of the Supreme Court on the matter.
The very same reasons that make rummy a game of skill are valid for the online version of the game, the high court reasoned and concluded that rummy falls within the scope of the Kerala Gaming Act of 1960 and therefore it enjoys the full benefits of the exemptions provided by the act for games of mere skill.
Kerala Govt Notification Declared Violative of Constitution
The ruling of the Kerala High Court from September 27 was against a notification of the state government dated February 23 that banned playing online rummy for stakes. The government order had placed online rummy outside the scope of the exemptions in the general prohibitions towards gaming and gambling provided for by Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act.
The notification was challenged by a number of companies from the Indian online skill gaming sector. “Since the game does not come within the meaning of ‘gambling’ or ‘gaming’, providing a platform for playing the game, which is in the nature of business, can’t be curtailed,” said the single-judge bench in the face of Justice Thirumuppath Raghavan Ravi when pronouncing the ruling of the High Court of Kerala.
He added that the ban on online rummy involving stakes was “not a reasonable restriction” under the Indian Constitution as it violated Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) and the fundamental rights of equality, trade and commerce guaranteed by these articles. Therefore, the notification was declared arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional.
The Ruling Comes as a Relief to Indian Online Gaming Industry
The nation’s online skill gaming sector welcomed the verdict of the Kerala High Court. “The judgment is yet another addition to the jurisprudence that has consistently held that games of skill are not akin to gambling,” said Games24x7 corporate affairs VP Dinker Vashisht.
Justice Vikramjit Sen, former Supreme Court judge and current chairman of the Bombay Stock Exchange, in his capacity of a member of the Skill Games Council at the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) said in a statement that “The SC and multiple high courts have reiterated numerous times that online games of skill are protected by the Constitution.We see the Kerala HC’s judgment as a positive move for the online gaming sector.”
Rummy Ranks High in Online Search Volumes
Rummy, even though not an exclusively Indian game by origin, is able to challenge the popularity of desi favorites Teen Patti and Andar Bahar, as revealed by a research paper profiling the topmost important games in India published by ENV.Media.
The research paper analyses primary Google Analytics data on various online casino related search terms and secondary publicly available data sets and establishes a well outlined preference for traditional desi card games over “Western” casino variants.
Measuring search volumes, Rummy is seen as the only game that outperforms consistently Indian exclusives Teen Patti and Andar Bahar, as well as searches for real money blackjack online, roulette or slot games.
Madras High Court with Similar Verdict against TN Law
Earlier this year, on August 3, the Madras High Court declared a Tamil Nadu law prohibiting online betting games including rummy and poker as ultra vires of the Union Constitution for going beyond the powers granted to the state government.The high court bench consisting of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy found that the prohibition legislation 'excessive and disproportionate' to its object.
Again, the ban introduced by the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 was challenged by a number of petitions. Various companies that develop and offer online games of skill filed pleas on the grounds that their businesses were being considered legitimate across the country and thus could not be deemed illegitimate in Tamil Nadu.
“Since 1968 the Supreme Court has made it clear that rummy is a game of skill and not a game of chances. Therefore, online rummy cannot be banned,” the pleas stated. Moreover, online rummy cannot be prohibited when playing it offline or physically in clubs is permitted, the petitioners argued.