By Rupin Chopra and Apalka Bareja
With respect to activities that involve gambling and betting it has always been a topic of debate whether such activities namely gambling and betting (involving money) are legal or not, whether they are to be classified as a game of chance or game of skill.
To know more about game of chance v. game of skill, read here.
Legality of gambling and betting in India
With the recent developments in the Indian Judicial System this position can be further clarified with reference to certain important judgments considered important in the sphere of online gambling games such as rummy, poker, etc.
India lacks a proper legislative framework to address activities such as gambling and betting. Betting and gambling can found embedded in List II of the State List under Schedule Seven of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the power to make laws on such topics lies with the respective State Governments. In some states, such as Assam and Goa, gambling and betting are legal. The Kerala High court in 2021 lifted the ban imposed by State Government on online Rummy. Therefore, the laws are not uniform in this sphere but with the advent of the internet age a unified framework should be established as these online gambling and betting services can be easily accessed while sitting in any part of the country with the help of just a smartphone.
Game of Skill vs. Game of Chance
Online games (gambling games) involving money such as rummy, poker, and fantasy sport leagues like Dream 11 etc. have become very popular in the recent years.
Read more about Fantasy Sports in India here.
Although there are certain provisions in the Indian legislation concerning a game of skill and a game of chance but still the difference between the two can be very fine at times. While a game of chance is dependent on some random factor, a game of skill is a game more dependent upon the physical or mental capacity of the individual. Section 3 of the Public Gambling Act describes the penalty for owning or keeping, or having charge of a gaming-house whereas Section 12 states that the Act will not be applicable to any game of mere skill no matter where it is being played. Therefore, if one can categorize a game as game of skill then then they will not be liable under the provisions of this act.
The perception is that these are games that require a particular level of skill and do not purely depend on the luck of an individual or chance as compared to dice games, etc. Even something such as betting on horses during a race is considered as a game of skill as one needs to be aware of the skills and abilities of the horse, the jockey and have the information regarding the training of a particular horse. This was the opinion of the court in the landmark judgement in 1996.
In online rummy or other card games one needs to possess certain skills necessary such as keeping in mind the trail of the cards, focus on the moves of other players and then discard your own cards accordingly, etc. Therefore, it can be said that more than a game of chance or luck it is about skills although it cannot be completely said that luck doesn’t play a factor in online rummy.
Rummycircle is a popular online platform for playing rummy and there is little to no controversy about the legitimacy of the activities that Rummycircle engages. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Dr. K.R. Lakshman V. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr clearly set forth the position of skill based games in India. Rummy being clasified as a game of skill and therefore it is legal and the public gambling act will not be applicable.
 Public Gambling Act, § 3, Act of Parliament, 1867
 Public Gambling Act, § 12, Act of Parliament, 1867
 1996 AIR 1153; 1996 SCC (2) 226