Is online poker legal in India?

Yes. It is 100% legal and safe if you live in Goa, Sikkim, Daman and Nagaland regions. On a general picture, India is not the most friendly country when it comes to talk about heavy gambling, but online poker enthusiasts are safe to play on licensed Indian websites and the whole country is slowly moving ahead to find a common licenses’ system.

The Supreme Court stated that games “based on skill rather than luck” are not illegal. Following this ruling playing online skill games like Rummy and Poker is clear as long as the websites providing the services have obtained a regular license for operating in India or at least in some of its regions.

Casino and some types of poker games such as cash game are, with the current regulation, not allowed, while sports betting, daily fantasy sports and poker tournaments – sit and go and multi table – are spreading thanks to new opening by international major websites.

Gambling regulation in India

As we already explained in this article, gambling in India is permitted as long as the operator holds a valid license. Licenses are issued by states and union territories and currently the ones offering them are Goa, Sikkim, Nagaland and Damam & Diu; it means that you can 100% safely play online poker if you are a resident of these territories and other online poker rooms are not allowed to accept players from these regions.

Does it mean that there are other indian online poker rooms not officially licensed? Yes, but it doesn’t mean you cannot play on these websites. Their common position when it comes to talk about legality is based on two strong lines:
first of all, the Public Gambling Act (1867) states that gambling is illegal when it’s built on a pure chance system, while games based mostly on skill are fine
the Supreme Court confirmed in 2018 the difference between games of luck and games of skill, de facto clearing the position of online poker and online rummy.

Difference between skill games and games of luck

The differences are pretty easy to spot:

  • games of luck are games based on statistics that are not influenced in any way by the player. E.g. betting on the 9 in a 37 numbers roulette, spinning a slot machine, etc.
  • games of skills are games where the player can actively and in the most part influence the outcome of the event. E.g. an online poker tournament, a rummy match, daily fantasy sports, etc.

Is online poker a skill game?

Following the differences above, definitely yes. The player who takes the best mathematical decisions does win the most money or chips in the long run. It’s true that luck has a role in a poker game, but if we talk about the structure itself of a poker match, a couple of lucky hands are not guaranteeing you to win the tournament, while a solid poker strategy does.

So where should I play?

As per the situation in this moment, online poker room with a regular license issued by the regions already ahead in the regulation, are 100% safe. They do ask you a proper ID to play, accept players only from a restricted area of India and all the withdrawals are paid via bank wire, as stated in the regulation.

Playing on other Indian websites technically speaking is legal, but it might get you some problems tax wise.

How does taxation work in India?

Also on this topic the regulation (section 194b of Income Tax Act) is very easy to apply and follow. If you win more than ₹10,000 in a single tournament or event, the poker room applies a tax deduction at source (TSD) on the total amount due, which is 31% of the amount won and no further taxes are due. If it doesn’t (usually licensed Indian poker room does do that), you have to fill the form of the Income Tax within 30 days since you got the money.

Surely India has to move forward in the regulation of online poker, but the ground has been already explored and more clarity will follow in the next months also for the regions where there’s not a full licenses system yet. In the waiting for that event, better study again some poker basics and be ready for winning big when the popularity this wonderful game will be sky-high!