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Poker in India has been developing, though at a somewhat moderate pace. Still, there have been a number of events to exemplify this growth and give hopes to all interested parties that the future of the game is indeed bright. However, a petition to recognize the game as a skill-based undertaking has just been withdrawn.

The Petition for Recognizing Poker as Skill-Game Withdrawn

Back in 2017, Indian poker player Karan Mutha reached out to the Delhi High Court and petitioned the institution in an attempt to convince government and the legislature that poker is a game of skill rather than what it’s advertised as, a game of chance. This is an important distinction as it establishes whether poker is “gambling,” which is more difficult to back on a legal level.

A local media has reported that Mr. Mutha has withdrawn the petition. Let’s flesh out the details first. Police raids on illegal gambling dens, and often poker, are a common sight. In 2016, the police raided Greater Kailash, Delhi to stop a poker game in progress. Mr. Mutha argued that the police officers arriving at the venue did not recognize his claim that poker is a game of skill, which excludes it from any and all gambling-related prohibition laws.

After the refusal of police officers to recognize this, Mr. Mutha become an active advocate for legalizing poker in India to the point where it can be played freely. Mr. Mutha began by citing the current situation in India, with the country expanding its poker venues, tournaments, and league, and some hosts have been willing to help players from India reach the international scene.

From Petition to Trial

He also cited the global expansion of the game, saying that the development indicated a game that has to do with more than pure chance, though it could be argued that casinos have also expanded, and they still remain places to “gamble” not play “skill-based games”.

On Thursday, November 1, the petition finally made it to court where Justice Mukta Gupta was preparing to examine the case. However, Mr. Mutha’s attorney said that the petition must be withdrawn as the case will be moving to a trial court where allegations against Mr. Mutha also stood.

Mr. Mutha failed to appear in court earlier this year, which led to his arrest. He was only released on October 4 and will now face charges in a trial court. Many of the people who participated in the game also fled the authorities fearing that they may end up with a prison sentence.

The arguments cited by Mr. Mutha, however, do make sense and they offer an insight in the changing landscape for Indian poker. The Match Indian Poker League (MPL) has come back for another season and there have been more investment flowing into the country.

While the scene is still patchy, with practicing poker ad lib not really allowed, there has been real progress in establishing the credibility of the activity, and more international tournament hosts eyeing India as a potential market.

However, for the game to take off in full, there will have to be a very deliberate effort on the part of legislation and the hosts, let alone Mr. Mutha.