Online Games of Skill Not Prohibited Under TN Online Gaming Act: HC

In a common order dated November 9, 2023, the Madras High Court held that online games of skill, including rummy and poker, were not online games of chance and, hence, weren’t prohibited under the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Act, 2022.[1]

Aggrieved by the Ban imposed on online games of rummy and poker, the petitioners approached the Madras High Court, challenging the constitutional validity of the provisions of the 2022 Act enacted earlier this year.

The Court observed that the Act did not ban physical games of rummy and poker while dismissing the respondents’ contentions that the dealer or software always knew all the cards as a conjecture in the absence of evidence to back the same.

With respect to the respondents’ submission regarding public order (under Entry 1 of the State List), the Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Ram Manohar Lohia vs. State of Bihar & Anr.[2] wherein it was held that “contravention of law always affects order but before it can be said to affect public order, it must affect the community or the public at large“. The Court noted that there was no evidence that public order was disturbed in the present case.

With this reasoning, the Court upheld provisions of the 2022 Act and set aside the Schedule (which specifically included rummy and poker as online games of chance) to the Act. Further, it was made clear that online gambling, as defined under Section 2(i), would not cover games of skill (including rummy and poker), and though games of rummy and poker were games of card, they were games of skill and hence excluded from the purview of “online game of chance” under Section 2(l)(iv) of the Act.

[1] All India Gaming Federation vs. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. (WP No.13203 of 2023) and 4 other cases

[2] (1966) 1 SCR 709