The Kerala High Court on Monday sets aside the State government action in banning Online Rummy played for stakes by including it in the Kerala Gaming Act. 1960.

Justice T.R. Ravi passed the verdict while allowing a few writ petitions filed by the companies engaged in developing and offering online games, challenging the notification taking away the game from the purview of the Kerala Gaming Act.

The petitioners contended that the notification issued in 1976 had exempted Rummy from the provisions of the Kerala Gaming Act. However, by notification issued on February 23, 2021, the government had brought "Online Rummy played for stakes" under the Act. The government action amounted to a violation of their fundamental right to do business, and therefore it was arbitrary and unreasonable.

A game of skill

The court declared the notification as arbitrary, illegal, and in violation of Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India, since, according to the court, the notification had been issued concerning a game that already stood exempted from the provisions of the Act under Section 14 of the Kerala Gaming Act and since the game did not come within the meaning of 'gambling' or 'gaming', by providing a platform for playing the game.

The court declared that Online Rummy played either with or without stakes remained a 'game of skill' and that A game involving skill predominantly stood exempted from the Act.

The State government submitted that "Online Rummy" was not a game predominantly of skill and there was an element of cheating involved, and even the deal of cards was manipulated. Besides, the State government had the power to bring the game under the Act.

Shot in arm for gaming industry

Meanwhile, Dinker Vashisht, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Games24x7 said, in a statement that “Kerala High Court decision comes shortly after the Madras High Court judgement, and is a shot in the arm for the sunrise sector of gaming in India.

According to KPMG, the Indian online gaming industry is at the cusp of transformation and is looking at a growth trajectory of over $3.9 billion in 2025.

“We believe that this development will give a major fillip to the industry by encouraging investments leading to technological advancements as well as generation of revenue and employment”, said Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation.

Online gaming today has emerged as an important avenue due to many favourable factors such as young and tech-savvy population, affordable availability of feature-packed smartphones, better internet connectivity, increased awareness and development, said Sutanu Behuria, as President of Policy & Planning, Rummy Chapter. AIGF.