The exact regulations around online poker in India are not quite clear, but what is for sure is that the game continues to grow in popularity. Card games tend to be viewed differently from other casino games, with poker viewed as a game of skill.
According to estimates, close to one million people in India play poker for real money, and the gaming market is known as one of the fastest-growing in the world. In 2016, figures showed that the real money gaming economy was worth 30.8 billion rupees, and this amount should rise to 71 billion by 2021, a growth rate of 30 percent a year. Rummy is the most popular real money game, followed by poker.
Though this article doesn’t necessarily point toward specific investments or teach you stock market basics, what it does suggest is that the following years may be lucrative times for investment in the online Indian gaming market.
Live Poker in India
As you may be aware, there are few land-based casinos in India. The lottery and horse racing are the only two fully accessible betting games. However, the Information Technology Act, 2000, makes a distinction between the casino and card games, and cases taken to the High Courts have deemed poker a game that is not to be interrupted by the law.
Local states can also outline their individual policies, with both Goa and Sikkim hotbeds for gaming. Goa, specifically, has seven land-based casinos and several offshore. At least four casinos in Goa offer poker, including Casino Pride, Royale, Carnival and Casino Goa.
Many expect the live poker scene to grow, boosted by the online revolution currently taking place. However, given that it is hard to open casinos in India, many gaming service providers look to open the online market, and this may be where one can unlock the best investments.
Online Poker in India
Again, due to the landscape of gaming in India in general, there are some states that may offer more online poker operators than others, such as Goa and Sikkim, in particular. Likewise, certain providers may not operate in the states of Assam, Odisha, Nagaland, and Telangana. Check local rules and operators.
Now, there are many major online poker providers in India. They include Adda52, Spartan Poker, PokerBaazi, and Real Poker India. There are also the social casino and social poker games, such as Poker Champions, run by YOOZOO Games. New for 2018 is Poker Raj and Poker Johny. PokerStars, one of the world’s leading poker sites, also relaunched PokerStars India.
To aid in this, the internet speed in India has improved dramatically over the last decade, with the average speed now standing at 20.72 MB in February 2018. That’s still below the average, but it’s usually enough to play online poker. Although it’s been a barrier to entry, as the internet improves so too should the gaming market.
Internet accessibility is another obvious barrier for online gaming and the online poker market. Though only around 26 percent of the population has access, this still represents 460 million users, the second-largest market behind China and growing every year. Undoubtedly, smartphone adoption will help to improve accessibility in the coming years.
Latest Poker Developments
Before making any investment, it’s critical to understand the most recent developments, most of which, in this instance, suggest an upward trend for the poker market.
The latest trends show an increased exposure to poker, with an increased number of sports stars and Bollywood celebrities now endorsing and promoting the game. Professional boxer Vijender Singh, for example, is a brand ambassador for PokerBaazi.
Recently, PokerStars India signed Bollywood star Nawazuddin Siddiqui as an ambassador for the site. They hold Nawaz poker tournaments with special prizes, alongside three commercials that challenge the viewer to guess whether Nawaz has bluffed.
This announcement comes with increased TV exposure, which PokerStars India has also facilitated. Though the Global Poker League (GPL) India first season has now concluded, it will air on Colors Infinity HD every Saturday. The event ran from June until September and included six regional teams amounting to 7,500 players.
The online poker tournament scene also got bigger recently with The Game Changer tournament, held on February 20–24th this year. With 3,777 entrants and Rs. 2 crores guaranteed, it was the largest online event yet.
Endorsements by celebrities, along with televised live events, should help to ease the minds of players and legitimize poker in India. As the poker landscape develops, the market continues to grow at an increasing rate.
Please note: This article is not supposed to serve as investment advice. It is merely an overview of the poker landscape in India in 2019. You should always take the time to do your research and make investments wisely.