The ups and downs of poker in India continued recently after police officers in Bengaluru shut down 500 cards clubs.
Initially reported by local news outlet Bangalore Mirror, the crackdown took place at the start of October and has put 10,000 jobs in jeopardy. Speaking to the publication, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Alok Kumar said the move was designed to curb illegal activity within the capital city of the Karnataka region.
Although there has been no indication as to when or if the 500 poker and rummy clubs will be allowed to reopen, the dispute isn’t based on the legality of playing cards. Instead, the issue for Kumar is the activity surrounding the poker clubs.
Elaborating on his statement to Bangalore Mirror, the police official said the card clubs have become a hive of criminal activity and drunken brawls.
Criminal Gangs Hurt Poker Economy
While the closure of the clubs is far from ideal, poker hasn’t been cited as the main reason. As it stands, the local authorities have taken direction from the Karnataka High Court on the status of poker.
As it did in Gujarat, the Indian Poker Association (IPA) petition the Karnataka High Court to accept poker as a game of skill. After assessing the petition, judges concluded that poker could be played within the state as a game of skill.
While the statement was more of an official opinion than a legal ruling, it essentially paved the way for recreational clubs to offer small stakes games in the state. Additionally, poker clubs have been given recreational licenses on the condition that the offer other forms of recreation.
This stipulation appears to be the reason the clubs have become a focal point for criminal gangs and, in turn, local police force. However, despite the insinuation that certain rules have been broken, one club owner questioned the motive behind the recent raids.
“We only conduct Rummy games and no Teen Patti or Andar-Bahar games are conducted in the clubs. Rummy games are played by the members at all the big clubs like Bowring Institute and Bangalore Club too. Why target only our clubs,” an unnamed club owner told Bangalore Mirror.
In response, a police source told the news outlet that larger clubs have towed the line with regards to offering additional leisure facilities.
“The big recreational clubs have all the sports and leisure facilities, including swimming pools and they are all following the rules and regulations and that’s the reason we have not initiated action against them,” said the police officer.
Poker in India Dealt Another Blow
For poker in India, the incident is another example of the country’s fractured approach to gaming. Although the state of Karnataka hasn’t completely closed the door on poker, its status is far from guaranteed.
Aside from the fact clubs can’t offer poker in isolation, the 2013 court opinion could be open to interpretation. Although poker players will argue that it is a game of skill, the state’s police commissioner could decide to argue it isn’t.
If that was to happen, the court’s verdict wouldn’t stand as poker would be put into the category of gambling and, therefore, outlawed as it is in regions such as Gujarat.
At this stage, there is nothing to suggest that’s going to happen. However, it’s another example of how poker in India is balanced on a knife-edge.