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Bangalore Police Shut Down 500+ Poker and Rummy Card Rooms

Map of India

Corporate consolidation oozes along all across the planet. Today's slimy testament of cynical administrative smackdown comes from the Indian subcontinent where the police in Bangalore (Bangaluru), India have suddenly been shocked, shocked to discover gambling going on in more than 500 licensed mom-and-pop card clubs. At the end of September and beginning of October, the authorities raided and shut these card rooms down. These businesses offer various games for real money, including poker and rummy.

Map Showing Location of Bangalore Within IndiaMap of India With Location of Bangalore Indicated

Legalities

Book of Legal Info

It's not the case that hosting real money poker and rummy is a crime in itself. The Karnataka High Court has ruled explicitly that poker is a game of skill, and similar judgments have been rendered with regard to rummy too. Thus, playing in and managing these games is not contrary to the anti-gambling statutes in the state. Therefore, the police had to use other legal justifications for their disruptive actions.

Much of the dispute centers around the claims of the police that these clubs are not, in fact, operating in a fully legal fashion despite being properly licensed. An examination of the official storyline revels that the authorities suddenly decided that these 500 humble neighborhood social clubs are actually hotbeds of drugs, prostitution, tax evasion, assaults, robberies, brawls, and probably even an easy place to steal hubcaps and play loud music late at night.

So what is the rationale that the cops used to shutter these clubs without any warning or notice whatsoever? Simply that they do not have any badminton courts on their premises, and, no, we are not making this up. There is, of course, a perfectly legitimate reason why the ability to fit in an intense session of badminton in between rounds of rummy or poker is important to the even-handed regulatory state.

That reason is to squeeze small card parlors into oblivion by making them devote large amounts of floor space to money-losing operations that do not contribute to their financial survival. The justification for this bizarre reasoning is that these establishments are licensed to provide recreational facilities of which gaming tables are only one – and not the most important – component.

More Than 500 Card Clubs in Bangalore Were Closed

Possible Behind-the-Scenes Motives

Golden Dollars

Strong-arming these insignificant little operations to play by the "rules" would require them to offer a host of additional sports and leisure facilities that nobody cares about – which apparently include reading rooms, ping pong tables, and badminton courts. While it might be possible to stash all of these white elephants in the basement of your average American house, space is far more precious in other areas of the world, such as India.

The only card clubs that can afford to set aside these significant amounts of floor space to no advantage would be, not surprisingly, the big players who have the wherewithal to sic the government on their tiny competitors. Among these operators are luxury hotels, resorts, and private gentlemen's clubs, which probably already possess the requisite athletic amenities and recreational lounges even without going to any additional bother or expense. As if economies of scale and generous ad budgets did not confer enough of an advantage to their operations, they have apparently decided to shut down all of these little shops by having inside recourse to the ear of the police authorities.

The Card Room of the Bangalore ClubThe Exclusive, Members-Only Bangalore Club Has Certainly Seen a High-Stakes Rummy Game or Two
Needless to Say, Its Card Room Was Not Attacked by the Authorities

While each of the 500 properties targeted may be small individually, closing them down in one fell swoop forces a large chunk of the card playing business into the doors of the big operators – whether they want to be there or not.

Bureaucrats Making Their Own Law?

Brown File Folder

The really unsettling thing about this incident is not whether these various small fishes in the sea of gambling are violating the terms of their licenses. Some of them, perhaps even all of them, may indeed be doing so. Yet it seems strange that all 500 of them were discovered to be in violation at the same time. Looking at the matter from the outside, it appears that one of two things has happened.

First, it seems likely that these clubs have been, at the very least, “indulged” in the way they operate for some time – perhaps years. In other words, they might never have been in exact compliance but nobody cared. Until now. Ergo, the heavy-handed shutdown of their activities.

It might also be that some change in administrative interpretation has recently transferred them out of compliance even though no physical changes have been made. In short, the old bureaucrat read the regulations one way and the new guy sees it differently. Regardless of whether either of these is true, the scary part comes from the way in which the local governors chose to deal with it.

After all, the claim is that these clubs are hotbeds and incubators of major crime. That surely sounds far-fetched. Some of them were perhaps becoming more than a nuisance and thus warranted action. But more than 500 of them? A blanket action bespeaks a deeper intent than the announced desire to clean up the town.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

Hammer

For those who live in the Western world, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair hearing are pillars of society. Though India benefits from basic common law doctrines and constitutional protections that it cribbed from former colonial overlord Great Britain, its record of adherence to these principles has been spotty over the years. It is certainly disconcerting to witness how 500 clubs can be put out of business – and 10,000 jobs incidentally wiped out – just like that.

Did anybody send them a letter notifying them that they were out of compliance and had a reasonable length of time to get their act together? Doesn't sound like it. Were they issued a summons to appear prior to being found guilty and ordered to cease operations? No. Were a few egregious outlaw clubs raided as an example to all of the others? No. The police simply shut every one of these clubs down because they felt like doing so.

Some of these clubs catered almost exclusively to retirees who would sit around reading newspapers and chatting with friends in between sessions of poker and rummy where the big, momentous pots would sometimes reach the massive total of $1 or $2. Now these fixed-income elders have no place to go to relax and play cards without paying a fortune.

Imagine living in a world where that is how the rule of law operates. Where some faceless bureaucrat decides that you are in the way of some large organization that has connections (and probably pays off very well). Your entire livelihood – gone in sixty seconds. Even if every one of these clubs is actually guilty of everything they say, is this how a just society is supposed to operate?

Federal Regulation of Betting Needed?

Blue Regulations Document

The patchwork quilt of Indian gambling laws causes quite a few situations, like the one we're discussing today, where those running the games and those playing in them aren't quite sure where they stand in the eyes of the authorities. Declaring some forms of gambling to be definitely illegal while transparently legitimizing others would at least prevent smalltime entrepreneurs from sinking their money into investments that are later deemed to be illegal.

By setting up a national framework for sports betting, casinos, poker, and other forms of real money wagering, the government could ensure clear and precise guidelines for what is and what isn't permitted. All parties would then be able to proceed without confusion, and all participants would be on a level playing field (in theory). The legalization of betting under a federal framework is just what the Law Commission of India has recommended earlier this year.

Online Poker Avoids Government Crackdowns

Poker Chips and Cards

Though the legal status of online poker is questionable in at least a few parts of India, the reality is that law enforcement has little ability or inclination to punish this activity. Thus, you can log on to the internet card site of your choice at home and play to your heart's content without worrying that the police will break down your door and arrest you.

One of the upstanding online poker rooms that serves the Indian market is Sportsbetting.ag. Besides just a poker room, it also has a casino with a live dealer section, a sportsbook, a racebook, and several other betting platforms. You'll get a 100% up to $1,000 bonus to play poker when you open your account and make your first deposit. Read our comprehensive Sportsbetting Poker review for further information.