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Betting on online poker, chess illegal: Court

New Delhi,Business/Economy,Immigration/Law/Rights, Mon, 24 Sep 2012 IANS

New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) A Delhi court has ruled that online sports betting is an offence in India and websites hosting games of skill, like chess and poker, involving money cannot be given any protection under the constitution.

Additional District Judge (ADJ) Ina Malhotra, in an order passed Sep 17 and made available Monday, said that even games of skill offered by websites involving money cannot be held to be legal and banks can refuse to provide normal services to such websites.

On a petition filed by a company of former students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the court said that gambling activities or conducting online games for profit on gaming portals were res extra commercium (a thing outside commerce) and could not be included within the words trade and business.

"Sports betting is an offence in India and bookies earning money from bets laid on games of skill cannot be granted protection under Article 19(1)(g) of the constitution (right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation)," said the court.

The court's observation came on a petition seeking opinion on various aspects including wagering and betting on online games of skill.

The petitioner, an internet start-up company founded by an Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi alumni with other Internet experts, told that court that it was proposing to launch a website offering six games - chess, billiards, rummy, poker, bridge and snooker, recognised as "games of skill".

The company said that it planned to organise such games, which may amount to betting or gambling, and therefore sought an opinion of the court to ensure that they did not transgress or violate the laws before venturing into the area.

The court observed that online games involving betting and websites hosting them charging a part of the prize money from participants was "illegal" in states which prohibited gambling and banks could refuse to provide normal services to such websites.

"So, while betting or playing for money among players on a game of golf, chess, bridge or billiards may be permitted, they cannot be considered legal if operated by a gaming house," the court said.

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