Delhi High Court Dismisses PIL Against Offshore Poker Operators

December 2, 2019 by Natalie Whitehead

Delhi High CourtChief Justice DN Patel and Justice C. Harishankar of the Delhi High Court dismissed two Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed by lawyer Deepti Bhagat and social activist Avinash Mehrotra that sought government sanctions against offshore online gambling websites which offered sports betting, poker, and other card games to Indian citizens.

The court issued a common order which compelled the Central and Delhi government to view the two PILs and make a decision on the issue of banning online gaming sites like 1xbet, Dafabet, Betway, PokerStars.in and Adda52.

The court instructed the two governments to first determine whether the games these sites offer are “games of skill” or “games of luck“.

The court also instructed the two governments to consider the other issues at stake with their decision, such as money laundering, and the taxation of the gambling proceeds.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has submitted an affidavit that stated it would be impossible to enforce any law that blocked online gaming sites in India, as many of its states contain laws that permit such activities. The Delhi government stated that it could not act against gambling sites unless the sites are hosted within Delhi, or if gambling was occurring within Delhi, such as in underground casinos.

Claims Games Are Based On Luck

Mehrotra in his PIL claimed that offshore online gambling sites accept deposits from Indian players without going through the proper channels, allowing Indians to wager large amounts of money without any accountability regarding the source of the funds nor was there any responsibility imposed on them to pay the appropriate taxes on their winnings. Poker and other card games were also argued by Mehotra to be “games of chance“, which makes them illegal according to Indian law.

Bhagat argued similar points, in addition to noting that the licenses granted to land based clubs where Indians play poker and other card games must also be reexamined by the government.

Central Government To Make Key Decision

The common order given out by the Delhi High Court disposed the PILs filed by Mehotra and Bhagat, and effectively absolves itself the responsibility from making any decision imposed by the courts.

Instead, they have passed the decision over to the central government, who the court feels is best equipped to consider how India will treat offshore and domestic poker sites going forward.

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If there is one topic that really gets Natalie excited it has to be the mathematics of gambling, having worked for a major gaming company in the audit department she loves nothing more than revealing all manner of facts and figures. Many of her news stories relate to both online and bricks and mortar gaming and are always worth...

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Amol Apte
Amol Apte
9 months ago

While the Order Copy is yet to be seen, the High Court has not dismissed these petitions. It has in fact disposed them off with a direction to the State and Central Governments to treat the petitions as representations and decide on the issue. Since the issues raised by the petitioners fall within the respective jurisdictions of Central (FEMA/PMLA) and State (Gambling) Governments, the Court has directed them to decide on the issue.