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Poker a game of skill or gambling, HC asks Gujarat govt

Is Poker, one of the most popular card games in the world, a game of skill or gambling?. This question was posed on Wednesday by the Gujarat High Court to the state government seeking its response to a petition that claimed Poker was a game of skill and not a form of gambling.

At the heart of the row over the card game was the police raids at half-a-dozen poker clubs in the state and its order for their closure under the anti-gambling act.
Justice A S Supehia asked the government to file an affidavit by May 22 spelling out its stand on the petition filed by the Indian Poker Association (IPA) last October. The single-judge bench sought the government's stand while also allowing the IPA to amend its plea to seek interim relief.

The IPA had moved the court last October, seeking a direction to the state government and the police not to interfere in the activities of poker clubs under the anti- gambling act.

The IPA said that ever since it moved the high court last year, the police raided over half-a-dozen poker clubs in the state and forced them to shut down. It sought an interim restraining order against the police.

The Ahmedabad police commissioner issued a notification on May 2 saying that poker is a game of chance and is not exempted under the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, the IPA said. The act exempts games which involve skill.
The IPA petition contended that poker is not governed by the act as it is a game of skill.

During an earlier hearing, the Gujarat government counsel had said the state government considered poker to be a form of gambling.

The IPA petition said the Calcutta and the Karnataka high courts have ruled in its favour, holding that poker cannot be construed as gambling.

The issue of whether poker game is gambling has been a matter of considerable debate in the West. The Calcutta High Court in a ruling in July 2015 exempted poker from being punishable under gambling laws.
The Karnataka High Court had earlier ruled on similar lines, excluding poker as a game of skill, and thus decriminalising it.

The gambling laws of many states make a distinction between games of skill and luck. However, the matter continues to be mired in a legal grey zone and concerns other card games like rummy as well.

Poker is played by individuals and the winner is decided by the ranks and combinations of players' cards, some of which remain obscure till the game finishes. It also involves considerable amount of "bluffing".

There have been some one-off judgments abroad (some Danish, Swedish, Russian and U.S. state courts have recognized poker as a skill-based sport), where poker has been construed as a game involving a "substantial degree of skill" and hence excluded from the ambit of gambling.
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