Is Teen Patti legal in India? Check Laws of Teen Patti

With a population of over 1.3 billion people, India is the fourth most populous country in the world. It therefore probably comes as no surprise that there are plenty of people who like to bet on sports in India. Casino gambling and playing Teen Patti are also popular pastimes.

Despite the popularity of casino games in India, the rules on this are not clearly written, leaving it on a negative pole. There are some exceptions, but it is rather difficult to estimate where they are legal and where they are not. Also, many players are skeptical about playing Teen Patti online as they do not know the laws governing gambling in India.

Here we provide insight into the legislation that is in force and how it can be interpreted.

General Gaming Law in India

The main piece of legislation regulating gambling in India is the Public Gaming Act of 1867, which was passed by the British government 150 years ago. The law initially covered only ten states under British rule at the time, but was subsequently amended to include all other states.

The Public Gaming Act is still in effect in India and imposes a fine of approx.  200 rupees or 3 months imprisonment or both. The law has changed over time; however, it still remains very vague and unclear.

Article 12 of the law reads as follows:

“12. Trade not applicable to certain games. Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Act shall be deemed to apply to any game of skill wherever it is played.

The law makes it illegal to operate a gambling venue in India and also makes it illegal to visit such a venue. While this is clear enough, there is no precise definition of gambling in law. For example, this makes it difficult to determine whether betting on cricket or football is as illegal as placing bets on dice. It could be argued that cricket as a game of skill does not fall within the definition, while betting on the roll of a dice is purely coincidental.

However, it should be noted that the Constitution of India has a definition of gambling which applies to any reference to gambling in the Public Gaming Act of 1867. The definition is –

“…gambling includes any activity or undertaking the determination of which is controlled or influenced by chance or accident or any activity or undertaking entered into or undertaken with awareness of the risk of winning or losing…”

While the definition is not clear and concise, it does suggest that anything related to risking money in the hopes of winning money can be considered gambling. Therefore, Teen Patti’s game is in the gray area in India. On the other hand, playing rummy is not a criminal offense in the country. In 1968, the Indian judiciary declared rummy as a skill-based game.

The law itself is therefore unclear and its scope depends on the interpretation by the judiciary.

Various state laws governing gambling practices

The Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution empowers the state governments to determine the laws related to gambling. Therefore, different states have different policies regarding Teen Patti and other casino games.

Laws in Goa

The Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act of 1976 allows Teen Patti and other casino games to be played in Goa, Daman and Diu. However, casino operators must have permission from the state and they must also pay a recurring and one-time fee for this.

Laws in Sikkim

The State of Sikkim enacted the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) in 2008 with the aim of controlling and regulating online gaming through electronic and non-electronic formats. The law was amended in 2015 and now restricts the provision of online Teen Patti games to the physical premises of licensed gaming parlors within the geographic boundaries of the state of Sikkim. 

Laws in Nagaland

In 2015, Nagaland passed the Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Bill, which bans gambling in the state. While some recent legislations have been put in place to oversee online gaming in the state, it is only the Nagaland Act that explicitly licenses online Teen Patti and other skill-based games. 

Laws in Maharashtra

The Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887 prohibits gambling in the state of Maharashtra. Section 13 of the law, however, leaves room for games of mere skill like Teen Patti.

Online gambling in India

Since the Public Gaming Act was enacted in 1867, it’s no surprise that there’s no reference to  Teen Patti playing online  . It could be argued that operating an online Teen Patti site in India would be considered illegal under this law given its wording, but it is far from unclear.

The Information Technology Act of 2000 is another law that can be considered as pertaining to online Teen Patti. The Intermediary Guidelines (Rules) 2011, published under this law, regulates gambling practices by intermediaries, including telecom service providers, internet service providers, network service providers, web hosting service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online marketplaces, online auction sites and cyber cafes. Section 3(2)(b) of the said rules provides for various offenses related to online activities, but again, there is no specific mention of online Teen Patti in the said law.

The Central Government of India has no jurisdiction over online Teen Patti games provided by foreign-based online gambling companies. These gaming sites are licensed to offer online Teen Patti games and are legal under European and international laws. Thus, Indian players can play Teen Patti games on licensed international casino sites. 

However, due to the amendment of the Information Technology Act in 2011, the use of these sites has become more difficult. The intermediary guidelines of the said law have instructed the website owners to block Indian players from accessing certain websites and content. 

inference; Is Teen Patti legal?

Since the Teen Patti game involves the random distribution of cards, it could be argued that it has a very high element of luck. In India, games with higher odds are considered gambling and it  is not allowed in the country to play such games in the hope  of winning real money.

Certain states have made it legal to play Teen Patti online and at land-based gambling venues, but the legality only applies in that state. Alternatively, there are several foreign-based legal Teen Patti websites that provide easy access for Indian players. 

Disclaimer:  This is for educational purposes only and we do not condone or recommend gambling in any form. This piece was an outside writer and has been checked against data available online by the editors, but not by a legal representative.