Legality of Online Rummy

Legality of Online Rummy

Latest Supreme Court judgement on Rummy: Game of Skills or Chance, or Both?

Rummy is a game of skill. Ace players, who manage to put the right sequences and sets together first, wins the game. Though rummy in India is played mostly for fun, since time unknown the card game has attracted cash and rewards for winners. Gambling laws in India are majorly designed by states. To put it short, rummy doesn’t account to gambling as it a game of skill rather than chance; however, various Supreme court and High court rulings have shaken the world of rummy, on and off.

Latest Supreme Court Judgement on Rummy:

So far, there have been two major judgements given by the Supreme Court of India in context of playing rummy. The judgements were given by a two-bench and three-bench judge divisions, that concluded that rummy is a game of skills. 

In the case of State of Andhra Pradesh vs K. Satyanarayana & Ors on 22 November, 1967, the two-judge bench accepted that the game of Rummy is not purely a game of chance such as Flush or brag which are entirely games of chance. Rummy requires good memory skills to keep a track of which cards are held and discarded.

The other case is of Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan vs State of Tamil Nadu & Anr that dates back to 12 January, 1996. In this case, the judges concluded that rummy is “mainly and preponderantly a game of skill,” and hence is out of the ambit of various state gambling acts.

In 2015, a Supreme Court two-judges bench led by Madan B Lokur and S A Bobde stated that online rummy and other card games have not been a subject matter in any court order for their legality or other matters, thereby challenges by online rummy websites are pre-mature.

However, there have been developments against playing rummy with stakes in various states of the country in the past few years. Given the rigor and stand against banning rummy from online rummy websites in India against banning rummy in these states, a Supreme Court judgement can be seen on the anvil in the coming year. Let’s take a look at some crucial judgements.

Latest Kerala High Court Judgement on Rummy:

Earlier in January 2019, the latest Kerala High Court judgement on rummy admitted that though rummy is a game of skill but ruled that playing rummy for stakes makes it an offence of gambling under Kerala Gaming Act, 1960. However, the order is in sharp contrast with the Kerala state government’s 1976 notification in context of Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 that exempted rummy; card games – 28/56/112; cup & coin, dart throw, ball throw, and shooting contests from its gambling provisions. The state government had at that time accepted that these six games are skill-based. The Kerala Gaming Act restricts side-betting and that is not the case in online rummy games even when played for stakes.

The Kerala High Court January 2019 judgement has been challenged by a few online rummy platforms in India, however, the plea stands deferred for hearing.

Latest Telangana High Court Judgement on Rummy:

In June 2017, the Telangana government rake a storm by banning online rummy and poker in the state. In its ordinance, the government stated that rummy is a game of chance, and cannot be regarded as a game of skills. The ordinance came in disparity with the 1967 Supreme Court judgement in the case of State of Andhra Pradesh vs K. Satyanarayana that had declared rummy as a skill-based game. The ordinance was challenged in the High Court on the grounds of considering rummy as a skill-based game. However, another ordinance was passed by the state government removing the clause of game of skills, altogether.

Currently, playing rummy online or offline for stakes is banned in the state of Telangana, while free rummy games can be enjoyed anytime, any day.

What is a Game of Skills?

To understand what accounts to a game of skill, let’s begin with the example of horse-racing. The game involves high stakes, yet it is legal, because winning or losing the game purely depends on the skill of the horse and its jockey. As per the Supreme Court’s 1996 judgement, betting on horse-racing is not purely luck-based, but winning the race is entirely skill-based. The judgment ruled it is not illegal gambling according to the 1888 Police Act or the Gaming Act of 1930.

Is Rummy a game of skills or chance?

Rummy is a game of skills. Though some chance is involved when the cards are dealt, but winning largely depends on the skillset of the players and the way they make the most of the cards in hand. You play the cards you’re dealt! Dr. Randy Pausch wasn’t wrong when he said, “You can’t control the cards you’re dealt, just how you play the hand.” This quote very well summarizes the game of rummy.