Business Poker

Pokerhigh ropes in Arjun Rampal as their brand ambassador

Delhi-based online poker website Pokerhigh has announced that actor and model Arjun Rampal would be joining them as their brand ambassador.

This would be the first poker website that Rampal would be endorsing.  Rampal, has in the past worked in several popular Bollywood movies such as Rock On!!, Don, Chakravyuh and Aankhen.

Pokerhigh has also announced a Rs. 1 lakh knockout bounty tournament on 11th June on their website. Pokerhigh is of the companies that received the Nagaland Online Skill Games license, in December 2016.

Speaking on the association, Mithun Rebello, Co-Founder & Managing Director of PokerHigh, said, “We are proud to associate with Arjun Rampal who truly reflects the modern, aspirational and fun persona of the PokerHigh brand and its users. Arjun is also a genuine embodiment of the brand philosophy, ‘Dimag lagao, Dil Se Khelo’.

He understands poker as a sport and is a true ambassador of the game. We are committed to delivering a memorable online entertainment experience to India and believe that this association with Arjun will enable us to take our brand philosophy to new heights.”

“I am excited to be associated with PokerHigh. After a day’s work, you want some me-time and little victories that keep you going everyday – PokerHigh does just that! I am excited to work with the brand and look forward to a great journey ahead,” said Rampal in a press release.

Business Poker

Pokerstars reiterates its commitment to enter India by year end

Global poker giant, Amaya Group has once again reiterated their intention of entering the Indian market by the end of 2017. Eric Hollreiser, vice president of corporate communications of Pokerstars in an interview to Isle of Man Today said that they expect to launch an India-specific poker website by year-end.

“In India we are expecting to launch by the end of this year. That’s obviously a huge market, a huge population and a growing middle class.

Recent figures are that there is something in the order of 200 million smartphones and mobile is an increasingly important part of our business because that is how people are consuming entertainment and consuming products, and so much is happening on mobile devices. We think that is a great potential market for us”, Hollreiser is reported to have said in his interview.

Hollreiser in his interview also broached on a host of other subjects including the company’s expansion plans in USA, its foray into the esports industry and inauguration of their new office in the Quay West area of Isle of Man. He also maintained that poker would always remain the DNA and core area of focus for the Amaya Group.

Amaya Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi had in November 2016, said that the company was planning to foray into the Indian market by the first or second quarter of 2017.

In May 2017, he indicated the company’s delay in their India launch and noted that they were looking to enter India by the end of the year. He also stated that talks were on with potential local partners for a potential joint venture or collaboration agreement.

International giant Pokerstars entry to India and their aggressive marketing strategies is bound to disrupt the online poker and skill games industry and is likely to affect smaller domestic gaming operators.


Raj Kundra & International Federation of Poker launch Indian Poker League

After starting and shutting down his online poker and stock games venture, British businessman Raj Kundra and his wife Shilpa Shetty Kundra have partnered with the International Federation of Poker (IFP) to launch a new poker league in India.

It is understood that Switzerland headquartered IFP, which is a not-for-profit governing body for the game of poker, has launched a league in a joint venture with Kundra promoted listed company Viaan Industries.

Christened the Match Indian Poker League (IPL), the league will feature teams owned by leading figures in Indian business and entertainment and will hold its first event in September 2017.

It is learnt that the poker league will have eight city-based teams which will compete over a weekend and play ‘match poker’, which is a variant of poker designed by IFP.

“We are delighted to be working with Viaan Industries and with Shilpa and Raj who have had the vision to recognise the potential of Match Poker and the business instincts to create an exciting and entertaining, sporting framework which will attract massive interest among players, sponsors and commercial backers in one of the world’s fastest growing markets.

The IFP has worked tirelessly for many years to develop the sport and the technology to support it and make it fit for purpose as a truly 21st century mind sport. It is a mind sport in an e-sport wrapper. Match Poker is inclusive and can be played by anybody with access to a smartphone and an Internet connection, anywhere and at any time” said Patrick Nally, President of IFP in a press release.

The Match IPL is the second poker league to be launched in India after the Amit Burman and Adda52 promoted Poker Sports League (PSL).

IFP’s choice of Kundra, who is no stranger to controversies, as their India partner however is inexplicable.  Kundra was forced to shut down his online stock games business in September 2016 after SEBI and certain sections of the media raised question marks about the legality of his business venture.

Similarly, Kundra abandoned his online poker business in December, 2016 after it came to light that he had misrepresented the fact that several celebrities like Shane Warne, Harman Baweja, Shahid Kapoor and Minissha Lamba were endorsing his poker website

In January 2015, Kundra was held guilty of betting and match-fixing in Indian Premier League (IPL) matches by a Supreme Court appointed committee and banned for life from participating in any cricket related activities.

More recently, Kundra promoted companies have been accused of not paying dues to employees and vendors. Some media houses have even raised question marks about Kundra’s solvency. It would be interesting to see whether Kundra manages to pull off a successful poker league or abandons another one of his business ventures midway.


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Legal & Regulatory Poker

In 34 page order, Calcutta HC rejects Rajat Agarwal's trademark protection plea, allows Amin Rozani faction to continue operating 'The Spartan Poker'

The ugly and public spat between the two factions of Spartan Poker has been partially resolved. A single judge bench of the Calcutta High Court passed a detailed order on 12th May, 2017 in relation to the civil suit filed by Pokerguru founder Rajat Agarwal against Spartan Online Poker Pvt. Ltd. (the company that operates The Spartan Poker), Amin Rozani and others.

The court in its order ruled that Spartan Online Pvt. Ltd. and the Amin Rozani-led group cannot be asked to refrain from using the domain name or the brand ‘Spartan Poker’, paving way for The Spartan Poker to continue its operations.

The order of the High Court is now available in the public domain. A comprehensive analysis of the ruling of the court in relation to whether domain names can be treated as trademarks can be viewed on Spicy IP.

Justice Soumen Sen in his judgment has recorded in detail the controversy surrounding the alleged partnership/joint venture between Rajat Agarwal and his family on one hand and Amin Rozani, Rajeev Kanjani, Peter Abraham and Sameer Rattonsey on the other.

Justice Sen has noted the existence of a Memorandum of Understanding and emails between the two factions, which has created a quasi-partnership arrangement and profits were shared by the two factions. The court also refers to the fact that Agarwal had contributed some amount for issue of share capital, but the same has been denied by Quadrific Media Pvt. Ltd., the company that originally operated Spartan Poker.

Further, it has been noted that while Agarwal did not officially hold shares in Quadrific Media, he was given a share of the profits and remuneration as director of the company.

The genesis of the dispute however is the defalcation and misappropriation of funds by Rohit Bhalla, criminal action taken against Bhalla by the company and Agarwal’s reluctance in taking a stand against Bhalla’s alleged action.

The Court observed that it is now well settled in India that domain names are to be protected along the same lines as trademarks, citing previous judgments. The court however noted that  the domain name ‘’ was not identified with Rajat Agarwal, Plaintiff No.1. Further, the court observed that not only had the Quadrific applied for the registration of ‘Spartan’ prior to Agarwal but Agarwal had incurred no substantial expenditure apart from the registration of the domain name.

Agarwal or the other plaintiffs did not spend on developing the web page, trade dress and designing of the mark and related expenses for its registration, the court noted. The court held that the application for Spartan Poker trademark has been objected by Agarwal before the trademark registry, and he may be able to claim damages from Spartan Online only if he succeeds in registering the trademark.

The court also observed that Agarwal cannot taken the argument that Rozani and others had broken the non-compete clause in the Memorandum of Understanding and emails as he allegedly breached a clause of the agreement by announcing on Spartan Poker page (which he owned) on 4th December, 2016 that he was starting a new poker website.

The court has however stated that due to the existence of a quasi-partnership arrangement between the two groups, Agarwal may be able to claim a share in the profits until 4th December, 2016, the day he claimed he was launching a separate poker website.

The court has further asked both Quadrific Media and Spartan Online to furnish monthly statements of transactions that have taken place till date as well as further monthly statements of the transactions that will take place. The court will further hear the issue of whether Agarwal can claim a share in the profits of Quadrific Media in July, 2017.

Business Poker

Pokerstars delays India launch to Q3 or Q4 of 2017

Pokerstars, the world’s biggest poker website has delayed its plans to launch an India website by at least one or two quarters. According to remarks made by Amaya Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi, the company hopes to launch its India operations by Quarter 3 or Quarter 4 of 2017 at the latest.

Ashkenazi added that the company views the Indian market positively but he does not expect India to contribute significantly to the Group’s revenues this financial year.

In November 2016 however, Ashkenazi had indicated that Amaya Group was planning to launch its India operations by the first or second quarter of 2017. He had also added that the company was in discussion with local partners in India for potential collaboration.

Ashkenazi’s latest remarks indicate that there has been a delay of at least one or two quarters from the company’s original target of launching by mid-2017.

It is learnt that Pokerstars is still scouting for local operations and has not yet signed any joint venture or collaboration agreement with a local partner. It is however understood that Pokerstars is in advanced stages of discussion with a couple of leading Indian gaming companies for a possible joint venture.

The Amaya Group on Friday announced that its revenues stood at US$317.3 million for the first quarter of 2017, which was a 10% year-on-year increase. Amaya has also proposed to change its corporate name to ‘The Stars Group Inc.’ and change its corporate headquarters from Montreal to Toronto to ‘more effectively manage its business and affairs’.


Headquarters poker room in Ahmedabad raided

The Headquarters Poker Room in Ahmedabad, operated by Vasim Rozani has been raided by the police. This is the third such raid on poker rooms by the Gujarat police, in an apparent attempt to crack the whip on gambling activities.

Details about the number of people arrested in the raid and the currency or valuables seized is not immediately clear. In the past fortnight, police have raided a poker room operated by AAA Gaming in Surat and another club operating in the Navrangpura Hotel in Ahmedabad.

Vasim Rozani did not respond to messages seeking his comments on the raid and it is unclear whether the club intends to challenge the police action legally.

Commenting on the development, KN Suresh, Secretary of the Indian Poker Association (IPA) said, “The player interest is paramount for IPA. While we know that Headquarters is right  and that there is nothing illegal about the activity, we think it would have been prudent to clarify as we propose to do when our matter comes up tomorrow before we resume games, it is the only fair thing to do for players.”

Gujarat police has consistently claimed that poker is a game of chance and consequently playing the game for stakes amounts to gambling. Four poker clubs have however challenged the police action in the Gujarat High Court and the matter is listed for hearing on 9th June, 2017.

Note: The story has been updated after Amin Rozani denied his association with Headquarters Poker Room.


IPA suspends operations in Ahmedabad amidst new raid by police

The Indian Poker Association has suspended its poker operations in YMCA Club, Ahmedabad and also its plan to open three more poker clubs in the city.

The announcement was made by KN Suresh, Secretary of IPA on his Facebook page. Suresh said that he would be approaching the Gujarat High Court soon to get a clear direction and in the absence of interim relief granted by the court, he had no option but to suspend the club’s operations in the city, in the interest of the safety of players. He made the following statement:

Poker in Ahmedabad is suspended until we get more clarity from courts. It’s the safest thing for us poker players considering that the authorities seem to be confused.
While they sleep over our representation & instead of answering the queries before courts the authorities have become aggressive and in a evidently boisterous mood.
IPA will be moving the Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat during the vacation over the next week and flip this upside down. Cheers!!

A raid by the Ahmedabad police on poker games happening in the Navrangpura Hotel in the city seems to have prompted the IPA to temporarily shut down its operations. Last week, the Surat Police had raided a poker club operated by AAA Gaming and arrested 32 people.

Jaydeep Dawer, Director of AAA Gaming has vowed to fight the matter in courts and issued the following statement on social media:

This morning as the Sun Shone, it guided me to pen down the TRUTH related to the events that have happened in the past few days. The Media has been all over scanting for any misinformation they can extract from the air since 30th April. This is my effort to make it easy for them when it comes to POKER!!!!

1. POKER is a skill Game and it is out of purview of the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act of 1955 & Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act 1987.

2. Poker has a legit status in West Bengal & Karnataka. A Criminal Miscelleous Application Petition is pending before the High Court of Gujarat since more than 3 months. This is our effort to to obtain the same status for the game in the state of Gujarat.

3. Media quotes, “Poker mania nu jugaar ramaato hato”. Well, If its Poker, it cant be termed as Gambling & if its Gambling, its definitely not Poker. And there is no such game as Poker mania.

4. Media says, we were operating a Casino. A Casino comprises of games Roulette, Black Jack, Flush, Ander Bahar which are purely games of chance, while a Poker Room though a part of the casino is always separate and insulated from the above games. At our facility, we did not have any provision for any of the above Games of Chance.

5. Media says I travel the country to play Poker and I am an expert in the game. Is it unlawful to travel in the country to play Poker? Expertise requires skill in the game and we have numerous players who are experts in Poker. But One can only get lucky in Games of chance and to be an expert in them without cheating is unheard of I guess!!! This Media themselves prove that Poker is not Gambling as they compliment me of being an expert in the game.

6. A Law makes an activity legal/illegal. In absence of a law, can an activity be vetoed Illegal?

7. If there is no law for Poker, its high time some definite laws are framed about the game rather than framing a few Poker passionates as accused without proper knowledge & Truth about the game.

IPA has also announced that its plans to open a poker room named ‘Safe House’ in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Paschim Vihar in New Delhi would not be affected by this latest development. The Radisson Blu Poker room is expected to commence operations tonight.

Legal & Regulatory Poker

Despite pending matter in HC, Surat police raid poker club, arrest 32

The Surat Police raided a poker club operated by AAA Gaming Pvt. Ltd. on 30th April and arrested 32 persons who were found playing in the club as per a report in the Times of India. The report adds that cash and valuables worth over one crore rupees were seized from the club, which included  Rs 4.59 lakh in cash, 40 mobile phones, two tablets, two video recorders and 12 cars.

The police arrested Jaydeep Dawer and Hetal Desai, the promoters of AAA Gaming for conducting gaming operations in the city. Interestingly, AAA Gaming had made an application to the Surat Police Commissioner stating that they wanted to start poker operations in the city. Since they did not receive any reply, the company had approached the Gujarat High Court, which directed the police to respond to the application by its order dated 23rd January, 2017.

Based on the court order, the police responded to the application stating that poker is a game of chance and cannot be conducted in the city.

AAA Gaming later filed a fresh petition challenging this response of the police. The matter has been clubbed with the other matters filed by Indian Poker, Association, Hotel Ramada and Ahmedabad Poker Association and is currently pending a final order from the court. The matter is likely to be listed on 9th June, 2017.

It is understood that AAA Gaming is likely to take the legal route and file yet another petition to challenge the action of the police as also to urge the court to quash the FIR and action taken by the authorities.

IPA on the other hand is undeterred by the police action in Surat and has stated that it will not only continue its operations in YMCA Ahmedabad but also open three more clubs in the city in the next one week.


IPA to launch new poker room in Radisson Blu Delhi & 3 other locations by 1st May

Exclusive Indian Poker Association (IPA) is set to launch four more poker rooms in the country- three in Ahmedabad and one in Delhi by 1st May. KN Suresh, Secretary of IPA made the announcement on his Facebook page.

When asked about to comment on the development, Suresh confirmed the news to Glaws and stated that IPA has signed an agreement with the Radisson Blu Hotel at Paschim Vihar in New Delhi and three other five star properties in Ahmedabad. He further added that the Radisson Blu poker room, launched as a joint venture between IPA and other local partners, would operated under the brand name ‘Safe House’, two poker rooms in Ahmedabad would operate under the brand name ‘VIP Premiere Lounge’ and another one would operate under the name ‘[email protected].

Suresh also claimed that IPA is going to launch poker rooms in major cities like Rajkot, Surat, Gandhinagar, Baroda, Surendranagar, Gwalior, Indore, Varanasi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi and Mumbai in the near future.

On being asked about the legality of the poker rooms that are proposed to be operated, Suresh said that the existing precedents have convinced the Radisson Blu and other locations to lease out the properties. He added that IPA would approach the courts in case there is any interference from the police or other local authorities.

Suresh also  claimed that IPA has received a letter from the Union Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs regarding the game of poker and is striving to get recognition from the ministry as an official association representing the sport of poker.

IPA has been at the forefront of approaching courts to get recognition for poker as a game of skill. In the past, IPA has got court orders from the Bangalore and Calcutta High Courts that have directed police to not interfere in poker games.

In 2016, IPA also filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court seeking a direction that poker is a game of skill. Subsequently, three other clubs have also filed similar petitions in the Gujarat High Court. The matters are still pending in court, having been adjourned several times. The cases  are now likely to come up for hearing on 9th June, 2017.