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Telangana is looking to classify online poker and rummy as gambling: report

Update: It was pointed to us that many media sites which cover news on poker and gambling were basing their reports on a story in Andhra Jyothy. The report, however, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. It does not backs it up with an official source or statement. Rahul N Bhardwaj, COO of Junglee Games wrote in to MediaNama and said that they could not find any information on the ordinance. Meanwhile, we will update once we hear updates on the same.

Earlier: The Telangana government is considering classifying online poker and rummy as forms of betting and gambling, according to multiple media reports. The state government may amend the Telangana Gaming Act with an ordinance and is also looking to insert a definition for cyberspace in the act, reports CalvinAyre. People playing online poker and rummy could also incur criminal penalties and a fine of Rs 5,000 for the first offence and higher fines for subsequent offences, Asia Gaming Brief reported.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of India declared online rummy, poker and card games as games of skill, which are not illegal in the country. However, states are allowed to pass laws regulating betting and gambling and users from Assam and Orissa are not allowed to play online poker and rummy. The Assam Game and Betting Act, 1970, and the Orissa (Prevention of) Gambling Act, 1955 prohibits games with money stakes and also does not create an exception for games of skill.

Police restraining users from playing poker is a regular occurrence in the country. The situation is further confused by the fact that there’s no national law governing gambling and skill-based games.

If the Telangana ordinance is passed, it could affect the operations of Ace2Three, Octro, Adda52, Mango Games, Zynga, Miniclip and Zapak in the state.

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The nascent online poker space is picking up pace in India and earlier this month, Canadian private equity investment group Clarivest led a $73.7 million round of investment in Hyderabad-based runs Ace2Three. In January, Adda52 launched a poker league called the Poker Sports League, in partnership with Amit Burman, CEO of Dabur Foods, with a Rs 3.36 crore prize money for the competition, with a total of 12 teams participating.

Read: The Caravan: How lobbyists are redeeming poker in the eyes of the law

Legalizing betting: Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India is considering whether sports betting and gambling could be legalized in India. Currently, online betting and gambling is outlawed, and can attract a fine and imprisonment for individuals running a gambling establishment. However, the state of Sikkim has issued online gambling licences in 2010 but only over an intranet, blocking access from the rest of India. This was part of a number of public interest litigation as part of reforms in cricket and petitioners argued that the legalized betting and gambling in sports would curb match-fixing and generate revenue for the government.

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