I am writing this weekly blog a bit earlier than the usual Monday’s. I have few things and ideas on my mind in the light of recent happenings which I wanted to say.
The first was the report in which a Delhi court ruled that placing bets on online sites is not a right that can be constitutionally protected. In other words, gaming company and their clients can be prosecuted for doing the same. Prabhat Mukherjea, a part of our PGMP group, who used to practise law before getting into poker has shed some light on this in the below article.
The other instance is a bust by local law enforcement of a poker game in a high profile club in Mumbai. Around 30 odd players along with organizers were detained.
All of us poker players agree that poker is not gambling. It is a skill game where chance affects short term results but skill prevails in the long term. This is also a fact. International Mind Sport Association has given poker the status of a mind sport. Recently a judge in New York also over-turned a conviction of a man running a poker room. The judge’s reason: poker is more a game of skill than a game of chance, so game operators should not be prosecuted under the federal law that prohibits running an illegal gambling business.
The disturbing part in Delhi court’s ruling was that it equated card game such as rummy as a game of skill but poker as a form of teen patti (an Indian gambling card game) i.e. a game of chance. This is a misconception / general perception among non-poker players or poker beginners and this has to be stopped from spreading. It is very easy to equate teen-patti to poker as Indians are usually taught this game by giving the following explanation: in teen-patti, one has to make a 3-card hand while in poker, one has to make a 5-card hand. This is how many people will know poker: a gambling game similar to teen-patti. (In my personal view, even teen-patti should not be banned).
“It’s the burden of our democracy: People and majorities decide the moral issues of the day. (They should not). Majorities do not decide what is right or wrong. Your conscience does. We must never ever kneel down before the tyranny of a majority.” These are edit-quoted from the inspirational movie “The Great Debaters”.
I want to reject the law which tells me playing poker is a crime. I don’t want to kneel before the tyranny of 51% of population. Just because 51% say it is so does not make it so. It is a fact that poker is a game of skill and I want my rights (to play poker) as a free citizen to be protected.
For these reasons, I propose the formation of a player’s alliance similar to Poker Players Alliance in US. This alliance will liaison with government at different levels. It has to educate them and market this sport in the correct manner. Give legal counselling to players who get prosecuted under some un-just law.
I will offer some ideas here:
In my opinion, this has to be a non-profit organization with around annually elected 5 board members. Membership could be something paltry as 10$ or 600Rs annually. Considering our Indian poker community is around 1000 strong with around 250 active players, it could get anywhere between 100-200 members. Thus have a small annual budget of around 50K – 100K for starters. Later casino’s and poker room operators (live and online) can also chip in. The budget has to be primarily used to retain a law firm annually which will petition government and courts to get poker a status of game of skill and thus separate it from purview of gambling laws of the land. Also an emergency hot-line could be setup where players who get prosecuted under gambling laws can call and seek legal advice rather than pay exorbitant bribes to officials.
To keep this Alliance apolitical and away from business rivalries and such, the board members should not be owners or associates of a poker brand or a poker room or someone running a raked home game. They should be pure poker players and active professionals (for whom poker is primary source of income) rather than amateurs if possible.
Guys who I really want to take this initiative and move it forward as initial board members: Amit Varma (blogger, writer and poker player), Bobbe Suri (well respected high stakes player), and Prabhat Mukherjea (MTT specialist and lawyer). Couple of more members required; one of who maybe from financial field like a Chartered Accountant who can be the treasurer. Leave it up to you guys to decide.
Soliciting your help Amit, Bobbe, Prabhat and also of other poker players to give this movement and alliance strength by enrolling etc :- a genuinely concerned poker player. (and no, I wasn’t in this recent bust up. But it could be one of us next time prosecuted by this un-just law).
Till next week then..