From what was essentially a club-oriented indulgence and would peak among certain sections during Diwali, card games like rummy have now become a year-round indulgence for revellers in India. With the advent of online gaming portals that host these games with an option to bet real money, Indians needn’t indulge in illegal gambling activities and yet fulfill their love for betting.
And in case you’re wondering, these online game portals are exempted from gambling laws since rummy is considered as a “game of skill” according to a 1967 Supreme Court ruling, and the gambling laws only apply to a “game of chance”.
India’s prohibitive legislation has paved the way for illegal gambling activities, unlike Macau which is widely heralded as the hub of legalised gambling across the world. According to the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act 1976, casinos can be set up only at five star hotels or offshore vessels with prior permission of the government.
Online games like rummy have, however, brought in a change for youngsters and long-time betting enthusiasts who can legally bet and earn money on these portals.
“Skill games like rummy are exempt from gambling laws in India and hence whether they are played with money or not, the legality doesn’t change. However, non-skill games are not legal for real money play,” Ankush Gera, CEO, gaming company Junglee Games, which introduced JungleeRummy.com, an online destination for all rummy players, told IANS.
These portals, however, aren’t operational in Assam and Odisha due to amended state laws. The Assam Game and Betting Act, 1970, and the Orissa Prevention of Gaming Act, 1955, do not create any exception for games of skill.
The buy-ins range from Rs.12 with a point value of 0.1 to Rs.2,400 with a point value of 10 on online card gaming portal adda52.com , and if multiple users are to be believed, it’s standard on most platforms.
The websites host rummy games where players, who are 18 years and older, can bet actual money after buying chips through various online payment options. Although Indians are said to be sceptical when it comes to online transactions, the number of active players has only risen in the past few years, says Gera.
“The market size has grown 400 percent. Rummy dominates real money gaming in India and ‘teen patti’ (a popular card came) dominates social free to play,” Gera said.
Delhi-based online rummy player Gopal Rathore, says that not only the number of players but the number of game portals have also increased over the years.
Most of the participation on the game portals, which promise a safe online environment for players, come from the 25 to 50 year age group.
“Taj Rummy provides a safe environment for gamers who play with real money. Our software is licensed and there are encryptions in place to make sure our players get exactly what they are paying for,” Parikshit Madishetty, managing director of Grid Logic Software, the company behind Taj Rummy, told IANS when asked about their online security.
A frequent rummy player, Ranjeet Rajotia, says the game helps him de-stress and he finds it a good way of spending his leisure time.
“It’s a fun experience where I get to practice my skills, relax and hopefully win some cash. I’ve been playing twice a week, sometimes more than that, for the past year,” 22-year-old Rajotia said.
The growth of the trend is mainly credited to customer satisfaction, which is why the online portals have a high retention quotient.
“(Our players are) extremely satisfied… and retention is extremely high. People find entertainment and games are one of few things that bring joy into people’s lives,” Madishetty said.
The peak participation on the websites is seen during holidays and festivals with the portals offering high value prizes and promotional tournaments. In fact, in March, JungleeRummy.com hosted a World Rummy Tournament 2015 in Singapore.
It is interesting to see how card gaming has reached a virtual level where norms and conditions are strictly applied to ensure safety for gaming enthusiasts who do not hesitate to partake in real money gaming.
Although online card gaming has a long way to go in India, the impact it has made in recent years is noticeable and it is clear that the future of the industry may be bright in the country.
Siddharth Jha / IANS