Online rummy “is a game of skill,” whether it’s played with or without stakes. That’s the ruling of the Kerala High Court.
Kerala notification on online rummy ‘arbitrary, illegal and violative’
The recent ruling overturned an amendment to a government notification that bans online rummy games in the state of Kerala. The notification, dated February 23, 2021, clarified that online rummy is not exempted from the general prohibition of gaming and gambling under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960.
However, Justice T.R. Ravi held that the notification was “arbitrary, illegal and violative of the fundamental rights” of the companies offering online skill games products to trade and commerce under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution as well as the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. The High Court also pointed out that the Supreme Court has already ruled that rummy was “a game of mere skill,’’ so for this reason, online rummy was also a game of skill.
“Online rummy played either with stakes or without stakes remains to be a ‘game of skill,’” the court stated. “Since the game does not come within the meaning of ‘gambling’ or ‘gaming,’ providing a platform for playing the game, which is in nature of business, can’t be curtailed.”
Kerala HC ruling brings relief to online gaming industry
The Kerala High Court decision stemmed from a petition filed by four online rummy companies who argued that the state could not arbitrarily ban rummy—a game of skill—via a mere notification under the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960. The operators also asserted that banning online rummy played for stakes goes against Supreme Court and High Court rulings that already recognized it as a game involving skill.
Former SC Judge Vikramjit Sen, a member of the Skill Games Council, welcomed the Kerala HC ruling, stating: “The Supreme Court and multiple high courts have reiterated numerous times that online games of skill are protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. We see the Kerala High Court’s judgement as a positive move for the online gaming sector.”
The Kerala HC is the latest judicial body to strike down state governments that are moving to ban online games in the country. Recently, the Madras High Court ruled that the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, which bans online betting games like rummy and poker—did not follow the national Public Gaming Act, 1867. The bold legislation banned betting or wagering in cyberspace on poker, rummy and games of skill if played for a wager, bet, money or other stakes and sought to give violators up to two years in prison or fine not exceeding Rs 10,000.
Uday Walia, partner at Touchstone Partners recently sat down with Sevenjackpots’ casinos comparison site to talk about the impact these recent dismissals will have in the thriving online gaming market.
“Unfortunately, it seems that what we are seeing right now are more local spur-of-the-moment pieces of action. However, what is good to note is that the gaming industry in India is going from strength to strength, and as such, could prove to be the right kind of pressure/lobby group one needs for the regulations to move in the right direction,” Uday told SevenJackpots, noting that continuous discussions on the topic of uniform regulation for India’s online gaming sector will result in the “right” decisions for the industry in the future.