India online poker overview
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India is not a gambling-friendly country, although the same may not necessarily apply to online poker in particular. From a legal perspective, everything depends on your local jurisdiction. India’s laws give individual states the autonomy to introduce their own gambling regulations. In certain ways, the poker situation in India is similar to what German and American players currently experience. That said, we won’t take the analogy too far.
On the federal level, Indian laws are quite dated and are so open to interpretation as to make them practically irrelevant.
India’s online poker laws
The most important legal document pertaining to real-money gaming in India is the federal Public Gambling Act of 1867, which makes it illegal for anyone to run a public gaming house or even to be present in an establishment of this sort. However, this law applies exclusively to games of chance. There are two legal precedents which indicate poker is generally considered a game of skill in India.
The first precedent dealt with Rummy. The court decided, despite the fact that the card game involves an element of chance, the skill of participating players has more of an impact on the outcome. The second, more important precedent was set following a raid on a poker club.
The Madras High Court handled the case. It ruled the skill element was more important than the luck of the draw, thus clearing everyone involved of any charges. Another important document is the Information Technology Act of 2000, which makes a distinction between casino games and card games.
All of this sounds like good news. Nevertheless, the truth is there’s nothing to stop other Indian courts from ignoring these precedents and assuming a different point of view, especially if it would be more in line with their local regulations.
What is or is not legal in India?
Due to the reasons outlined above, ascertaining the legal status of online poker sites in most Indian states is nearly impossible. In most cases, the country’s legislative and judicial branches haven’t tackled the issue yet. The only states that don’t match this picture are Goa and Sikkim.
Goa is a fairly gambling-friendly place, at least by Indian standards. It hosts several land-based casinos. Plus, local regulations openly permit gambling as long as it’s limited to “electronic amusement.” One could question whether online poker falls into this category, but most experts seem to agree online poker enthusiasts have little to worry about.
Then, Sikkim stands as the only Indian state with clear-cut online poker regulations and licensed online poker rooms. The largest of those rooms even has its own roster of sponsored players. It also has a solid selection of games, which include some exotic, India-specific poker variants, such as Crazy Pineapple and Lazy Pineapple.
The minimum legal gambling age in India is 18.
India and poker-related taxes
Despite the dubious legal status of online poker in India, most experts agree if playing for real money is indeed legal, players have to pay a 30 percent income tax on all winnings above 10,000 rupees. Unlike gambling-specific laws, tax regulations are uniform across the country.
Where can I play poker online in India?
Sikkim-licensed sites like adda52.com aside, India-based players tend to play on the most popular international poker networks. Those include PokerStars, 888poker, and partypoker. Poker operators are perfectly aware of the fact that neither the federal government nor state-level authorities are interested in going after individual Indian poker enthusiasts. Consequently, Indian players are free to join the best cash games and tournaments available on the internet.
This is the biggest name in the online poker world, and for good reason. The average traffic dwarfs that of other sites on the market, usually surpassing combined users from all other West-facing competitors. It offers not only cash games, tournaments, and live events, but also a sense of community.
If we had to nitpick, PokerStars sure could work on its customer support. It should at least raise that service to the excellent level of welcome bonuses and recurring promotions offered on the site.
Hold’em aside, PokerStars is probably the only site where you’ll get some consistent Omaha action instead of an exercise in frustration resulting small player pools. The site also gives access to a solid lineup of MTTs and SNGs with unmatched prize pools.
Based in Gibraltar, 888poker launched in 2002. It established itself on the iGaming scene thanks to solid cash games and high-quality software. The site gives access to the best no-deposit bonus on the market. If that wasn’t enough, its games are significantly softer than PokerStars’. Unlike all other top-tier poker platforms, 888poker supports browser-based play. This makes its tables easy to access from a smartphone.
888 is pretty solid when it comes to No-Limit Hold’em, but if you pick any other poker variant, you’ll quickly realize why people go to PokerStars for Omaha and Stud. On a brighter note, 888’s MTT lineup is pretty solid.
Please note this company has separate player pools for Spain and New Jersey.
Lastly, partypoker had a rocky past — it used to be the biggest card room on the web in the early ’90s. But the Black Friday events knocked it down a notch. In the aftermath, PartyPoker changed its strategy and began catering to the needs of recreational players.
Hold’em is the bread and butter of this site. Omaha and Stud are present mostly for the sake of being present — not much action besides heads-up play. Partypoker’s MTT and SNG offerings ensure there’s something juicy for every breed of player out there.
As for branches, partypoker has daughter sites in New Jersey, Spain, and France.
Banking methods in India
Unlike Europeans and Americans, Indians tend to rely on credit card payments to fund their poker accounts. In Sikkim, other popular options include Netbanking and Pay By Cash. When requesting withdrawals, Indian players can choose between a standard wire transfer and check by mail.
Generally speaking, Sikkim-licensed sites don’t accept e-wallet payments and won’t allow you to cash out via Neteller or Skrill. This will undoubtedly be disappointing for any poker fan accustomed to playing in the West.
Where can I play live poker in India?
There are nine land-based casinos located in India. All of them call Goa and Sikkim home, but only four offer live poker.
Casino Pride Panaj (six poker tables)
Casino Pride 2 (eight poker tables)
It’s also worth noting the state of Daman is preparing to introduce new gambling-friendly legislation, but it is currently impossible to predict whether this will result in local poker rooms opening up.
History of online poker in India
Due to the largely unregulated nature of its gambling market, India doesn’t have a history of online poker. The nation’s poker scene is simply doing what every other gambling community did when faced with a similar situation: it disregards unclear regulations and simply enjoys the game.
As is almost always the case, authorities aren’t interested in going after individual players, especially if they use VPNs to connect to their favorite sites.
It would be inappropriate for us to tell you whether you should follow in their footsteps. However, we can state with a fair degree of certainty that the risk involved is very small.