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Is Playing Cards Illegal In India?

To put it simply, playing cards isn’t illegal in India, BUT playing cards in a public setting is. And that’s the biggest thing many overlook in India, which is why they face legal consequences. Let’s find out what else there is for you to know about this whole playing cards and gambling thing.

Many people in India play card games, like rummy, poker, and baccarat. Although most of them play these games for entertainment, it’s still not very clear whether in this perspective, the activities can be classified as gambling. This part explains that playing card games can be more than just fun. It can also have legal issues if money is involved.

Playing Cards

What Are The Central Gambling Laws in India?

The country has very much regulated its gambling industry in India, through the use of the Public Gambling Act of 1967. This very law prohibits, among others, the operation or visiting of public gambling places. A gambling place is anywhere where gambling happens and the owner makes money from it. In case you run a place of gambling, there is a fine of money or imprisonment. That is, in case you are running a business place of gambling, it incorporates financial penalties to even being jailed. But, the law does say there’s a difference between games of skill, like rummy or poker, and games of chance, which are typical gambling activities. The law specifies that games of skill do not fall under this law.

And yes, the Supreme Court has a huge say in deciding how legal card games are in India. Back in 1968, the Supreme Court had observed that games like rummy and poker require a high amount of skill and are not entirely based on luck. This was reiterated in 1996 through a judgment of the Supreme Court, in which it was held that any game dominated by skill is not a game of chance. It assumes importance as the playing of these games for money is, therefore, allowed under certain conditions.

For instance, each state in India is at liberty to frame its laws around card games and gambling, however, there is a central law in place to serve as guidance. This means that the very act of playing cards for money depends from state to state, there could be the case that it’s legal in one state and illegal in another. Some states can have very strict laws against all sorts of gambling, card games for money included, while others allow the same with a few rules.


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