Is Poker Legal in India?

[Source: Pixabay]
[Source: Pixabay]

Poker is, without a doubt, one of the most popular card games in the world. From its earliest appearance in Europe in the early 19th century to its status today as a truly iconic card game, poker has enjoyed a meteoric rise.

A large part of that success can be attributed to the game itself. Simple to learn, difficult to master and different every single time you play it, poker has revealed itself to be an immensely complex game. More than that though, it’s a game where reading your opponents is just as important as reading your cards.

However, there’s no denying that its modern popularity hasn’t been spurred on by looser gambling laws across the world. Today, there are only ten countries in the world with a total blanket ban on gambling, according to, including the UAE, North Korea, Japan, Cambodia and Poland. However, many countries operate partial bans on gambling.

One such country is India, which enjoys a slightly complex relationship with gambling laws that can make deciphering whether a game like poker is actually legal to play a chore. So, is it? Join us as we get to the bottom of the issue.

Gambling in India

Before we get to poker specifically, it’s important to note that the Public Gaming Act of 1867, which applies to the entirety of India, makes it a crime to run either a “common gaming house” or to be present at one, a law outlined at

It’s a law old enough to be considered antique but, importantly, the central Indian government leave it up to each state to decide how to regulate gambling.

It’s also important to note that India’s High Court has judged that poker is a game of skill, rather than chance. The court ruled that playing games of skill in recreational clubs are permitted, and require no license as of October 2013.

All of which leads us to…

Is Poker Legal?

Well, yes and no. Because it’s been ruled as a game of skill rather than chance, it’s legal to be played in recreational clubs across India. However, because physical casinos are illegal in India, you won’t find it played there unless you’re in a state like Goa which has particularly unrestricted gambling and, therefore, land and water-based casinos.

Importantly though, online poker falls into a legal grey area because the Public Gaming Act of 1867 only prohibits common gaming houses, which, in their own words means a “house, walled enclosure, room or place in which cards, dice, tables or other instruments of gaming are kept or used for the profit or gain”.

[Source: Pixabay]

That wording doesn’t prohibit online gambling and so, online poker is growing in popularity. Although nowhere near as popular as online poker is in the UK, where thousands of players play against each other in real time at sites like, online poker in India is gaining huge traction, thanks in large part to much greater access to the internet.

Although the law isn’t completely black or white on the issue of online poker yet, online poker websites do exist in India and, as long as the website you’re playing poker on deducts TDS – Tax Deducted at Source – from your winnings.

Clearly then, poker in India remains an interesting issue, although legal in some settings and not restricted online, it would be an immense boost for Indians and those visiting India to know exactly where they stand on the issue. Until then, the best advice is to simply seek out the state laws of where you’re visiting.

Good luck!