Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Kerala HC rummy & Gujarat HC poker matters adjourned once again

Last week saw adjournments in key matters relating to the legality of rummy and poker by the Kerala and Gujarat High Courts respectively, leading to possibility of a further delay of at least a few more months on clarity regarding the legality of skill games played for stakes.

A division bench of the Kerala High Court while hearing a clutch of review petitions on Friday 19th July, filed by online rummy websites Ace2Three, RummyCircle and Junglee Rummy adjourned the matter by another two weeks. The matter is now scheduled to be heard on 6th August, 2019.

The adjournment was granted by a bench comprising of Justices AM Shaffique and N. Anil Kumar at the request of the state government, which sought more time for coming up with a response to the online rummy companies’ contentions.

In April this year, RummyCircle (followed by other rummy websites) had filed a review petition against a January 2019 order of a division bench of the High Court which held that playing the game of rummy for stakes or wagering on it is not just an innocent pastime but amounts to the offence of gaming under the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960.

Meanwhile a division bench of the Gujarat High Court also did not take up the appeal against a single judge’s 2017 order ruling poker to be a game of chance and falling within the ambit of gambling.

A division bench of the court comprising of Acting Chief Justice Anant S. Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav was supposed to hear the appeal filed by Indian Poker Association Secretary KN Suresh, Dominance Games Private Limited, Aman Chhabra and Hotel Ramada, Ahmedabad on 18th June and then again on 19th July.

The court however could not take up the matter on both occasions and the hearing for the case has now been adjourned for about two months. As per the Gujarat High Court website, the matter will now be listed for hearing again in about two months from now, on 16th September, 2019.

Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Online rummy companies file review petition in Kerala HC, matter to be listed on 19th July

At least three online rummy companies, including Play Games 24×7 Private Limited (RummyCircle), Head Digital Works Private Limited (Ace2Three) and Junglee Games India Private Limited (Junglee Rummy) have filed review petitions in the Kerala High Court seeking reconsideration of the January 2019 order of a division bench of the court which held that playing the game of rummy for stakes or wagering on it is not just an innocent pastime but amounts to the offence of gaming under the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960.

The review petitions filed by the online rummy companies came up before a division bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Justices AM Shaffique and N. Anil Kumar yesterday. The court however, adjourned the petition for two weeks and has now listed the matter for hearing on 19th July, 2019.

As noted by Glaws in its analysis in an exclusive article on 28th February, 2019, the Kerala High Court seems to have made an apparent error in its judgment by overlooking a 1976 state government notification that clearly exempts six games including rummy from the ambit of the Kerala Gaming Act, subject only to the condition that side-betting is not permitted on such games.

The Kerala High Court probably guided by erroneous submissions by the counsels appearing in the case, in fact, stated in its judgment that no such notification exempting certain skill games under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act existed.

According to the available court records, in the earlier hearings of the review petition filed by Play 24×7 Games, the court had asked the Additional Advocate General to get instructions from the state government on the matter.

It remains to be seen whether the Kerala High Court modifies or revises its January 2019 order based on the 1976 notification and other precedents regarding rummy being a game of skill and allowed for stakes being brought to its notice.

Categories
Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Andhra may follow Telangana in banning online rummy

The Andhra Pradesh government may bring a new legislation to ban online rummy and gaming in the forthcoming session of the legislative assembly, as per reports in the local press last week.

According to the reports, State Minister for Tourism, Culture and Youth Advancement, Muttamsetti Srinivasa Rao alias Avanthi Srinivas raised the issue of online rummy and gaming spoiling the lives of many educated as well as unemployed youth and demanded a ban on online rummy, at a conference of District Collectors and Superintendents of Police in the presence of Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy.

As per local press reports, after Srinivas raised the issue, the Chief Minister immediately asked Director General of Police (DGP) Gautam Sawang for an explanation. It is learnt, that Sawang stated that online rummy websites cannot be blocked due to absence of proper laws governing it.

Reddy is immediately said to have reacted to the assertion by stating that the state government will introduce a new legislation to ban online rummy in the legislative assembly of the state. The newly elected Chief Minister also instructed the police heads of every district to strictly stop all illegal activities, including card rooms and rummy clubs operating in the state.

In 2017, Telangana had become the first state in the country to pass a law to ban all kinds of online games played for real money or stakes, including games of skill such as rummy.

Several online rummy companies had immediately challenged the state government’s ordinance (and subsequent Amendment Act) in the High Court. However, the hearings in the court have not seen much progress in the last two years and the rummy companies have failed to get any substantive relief so far.

Last year, the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu had also spoken about the focus, coordination of mind and skill involved in card games while warning about the harmful effects of such games, including the possibility of addiction.

It remains to be seen whether Chief Minister Reddy actually introduces a new legislation to ban online rummy in the winter session of the legislative assembly and whether such a legislation, like Telangana, would include a ban on all games of skill played for stakes.

Categories
Business

Paytm-backed Gamepind rebrands itself as FirstGames, looks to raise $30 million

Paytm-backed real money gaming platform Gamepind has decided to rebrand itself to FirstGames, as per a report in the Economic Times.

Gamepind, which is a joint venture between Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications Limited and Alibaba Group owned gaming technology provider AGTech Holdings, is also reportedly looking to raise further capital of US$30 million to expand its gaming platform and scale it with more games.

One97 Communications and AGTech had infused US$16 million in Gamepind Entertainment Private Limited last year.

Gamepind (now Paytm FirstGames) has claimed that in a short span of less than one year, it has garnered over 30 million registered users on its platform.

The company offers casual games such as ludo, snake wars, badlands, 8 bnall pool as well as skill games such as rummy, fantasy sports, trivia and live quiz on its platform as well as on the Paytm website and mobile app.

Gamepind is reportedly currently clocking Gross Merchandise Volume of Rs. 20 crore monthly, which it hopes to increase to Rs. 28-35 crores during the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup.

Read more about Gaming business in India.

Categories
Gaming

Paytm’s Gamepind gets 30 million registered users

Gamepind Entertainment Private Limited, the online gaming joint venture of online payments and e-commerce behemoth Paytm and Alibaba-backed gaming technology company AGTech, has announced that it has acquired 30 million registered users on its portal within a year of starting operations. Gamepind has claimed that their platform has also witnessed over 70 million gameplays in a month and growth rate of 20% month on month.

The company has claimed that it has over 100 casual and real money skill games available on its platform, that can also be accessed through the Paytm app.

The company stated that it has partnered with high-quality studios and publishers from India and across the world including Gamepix, Famobi, and Shoal games to bring popular casual games such as ludo, snake wars, badlands, 8 bnall pool as well as skill games such as rummy, fantasy sports, trivia and live quiz.

Gamepind has also officially announced the launch of their updated app with two new skill games, ‘Gamepind Fantasy Sports’ and ‘Gamepind Rummy’. Glaws had first reported in January 2019 about Gamepind starting fantasy games and rummy on the Paytm platform.

Commenting on the development, Gamepind Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sudhanshu Gupta said, “Our goal is to build the largest gaming destination in the country which not only provides the best games to our users but also rewards them for playing. We have already seen great success with games like Ludo and Snake Wars and competitive skill-based real money games like Trivia and with the cricket world cup coming up, we are excited to launch Gamepind Fantasy Sports. We will continue to strive to innovate and bring more exciting and rewarding games for our users.”

Categories
Gaming

Feature: Grid Logic Group MD Pariekshit Maadishetti discusses the efficacy of a rummy network and potential of online gaming in India

The Grid Logic Group is a diversified entity having interests in gaming, media, IT services and hospitality. The company recently won the runner-up award for the Emerging Indian Gaming Company at the GATO 2.0 awards organised by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

In this conversation, Grid Logic Group Managing Director Pariekshit Maadishetti discusses the journey of the group, the gaming technology and software business as well as opportunities and potential in the online rummy space in India.

Full interview

Q. Can you tell us more about Grid Logic Group and the Taj Rummy Network as well as why and how you ventured into the online gaming business?

Pariekshit Maadishetti (PM): The Grid Logic Group, headquartered in India, is one of the fastest growing groups with diversified interests across various sectors including media, IT services and hospitality apart from gaming.

Our focus was RMG (Real Money Gaming) products for regulated markets back in 2010 and we happened to stumble upon rummy while scouting for something new. As rummy was India-facing, a fairly new vertical, and mostly importantly, a less-crowded market, we were convinced to launch Taj Rummy.

We had no second thoughts in going the B2B way by launching the network as it is common play in regulated markets to make it easy for new entrants. As we were the first to launch a network, we were received well by all our partners and we will hopefully lead the pack moving forward as well.

Q. A rummy network having a shared liquidity is a relatively new concept in Indian gaming. Why did you decide to focus on a rummy network instead of creating your own platform?

PM: The ‘network with shared liquidity’ model has been successful with bingo in the US/UK market for us and hence we took that route. Special thanks to all our partners who made it happen by trusting us though it was a new concept.

This move not only got us liquidity for the network but also strengthened Taj Rummy which is our flagship brand. I am happy to share that we are growing steadily and will continue to open avenues for many more partners who would like to explore rummy as an additional revenue stream.

Q. Apart from white label solution for online rummy, what are the other services that you offer to those who wish to start an online gaming business?

PM: We have a software development and IT services company within our group; Grid Logic Software which manages all services related to gaming, media, marketing, outsourcing  and payments not only for India but regulated markets as well.

Q. The online rummy market is very competitive and several established players with deep pockets are competing for a share of the pie. How do you view the market and how do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

PM: Certainly no arguments about the rummy market being fiercely competitive, however, it’s a huge market with established offline audiences converting into online players. It has been growing steadily and this growth aspect is allowing us to stay profitable. It definitely takes time to attain a decent market share but we are not fighting alone, we are doing it as a network and I am hoping that we will do it faster and in the most economical way.

Q. There have been several setbacks to the online gaming business on the legal and regulatory front. How do you view the legal challenges in this space and how do you see the space evolving in future?

PM: Thankfully our legal support framework has evolved with the gaming sector as an industry and we are not alone when we have these setbacks. However, my personal view is that there will always be changes when it comes to regulations but business will continue to grow as usual and the only way forward would be regulation.

Q. Finally, can you tell us more about your expansion plans and strategies? Do you intend to foray into other games like fantasy sports and poker or into other geographies?

PM: We are working on a couple of things right now, however it’s too early to take decisions on them. As always, we are exploring to enter newer geographies as well, and we will pursue them if we find something interesting to do there!

Categories
Events

IAMAI hosts GATO 2.0 conference and awards; MPL bags Emerging Indian Gaming Company award

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) hosted a day long Gaming for Tomorrow (GATO 2.0) conference and awards ceremony at the Leela Ambience hotel in Gurugram on 24th April, 2019.

The daylong conference had discussions around various facets of digital gaming in India. Industry experts brainstormed on the potential of various online games and will chart a roadmap for its future growth. The conference also hosted special workshops for developers by AISPL (Amazon Internet Services Private Limited) and Amazon Alexa.

Digbijoy Shukla, Head-Startup Ecosystem, AISPL in his keynote address stated that the gaming industry in India can become a billion dollar market by 2020 as the number of mobile users are expected to reach 700 million.

The summit speaker’s line-up includes several industry experts like Haja Sheriff Lead – Business Development for Alexa Skills, Amazon India; Abhishek Shah, CEO, Conversion X , Pariekshit Maadishetti, Managing Director, Grid Logic Group;  Akshat  Rathee, MD, Nodwin Gaming; Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman & MD, JetSynthesys; Sundar Raman, CEO – Sports, Reliance Industries among others and had discussions around topics like Design in gaming: Need and importance?; The rise of AI and AR/VR induced gaming; Mainstreaming Esports in India; The aesthetics of marketing a game in India; Responsible Gaming: Player Protection and Safety etc.

The conference also hosted workshops focused on the central idea of building relevant skills for the gaming fraternity of India. The workshops will be conducted by developers from AISPL and Amazon Alexa. Some of the topics that were be dissected in the workshops included ‘Build the Cake Walk Skill’, ‘The future of voice-based experiences in gaming’, and ‘Add Memory to the skill to improve your Voice User Interface’.

At the event of the conference, IAMAI unveiled the inaugural GATO awards where Indian gaming developers and companies were honoured for their excellence under eight categories. Popular mobile gaming company Mobile Premier League (MPL) bagged the award for Emerging Indian Gaming Company while Grid Logic Games (Taj Rummy) got the runner up award in the same category.

The awards were selected based on nominations received by an IAMAI appointed jury comprising of  Manish Agarwal, CEO,  Nazara Technologies; Prithvi Raj, Associate Director – Smartphone Solutions, Nielsen India; Shrikant Rajemahadik, Global Head Publisher Business – POKKT; Laxmi Desai Khanolkar, Co-Founder and CEO, Apar Games; Akash Gupta, Director, ConversionX and Shilpa Bhatt, VP – Games, 99games

The complete list winners of the GATO 2.0 Awards 2019 is as below:

WINNERS CATEGORIES
SNIPER RUST BEST USE OF AR/VR IN A GAME
ConversionX BEST MOBILE AD NETWORK FOR GAMING
Pokkt BEST AFFILIATE PARTNER FOR GAMING
NEXTWAVE MULTIMEDIA BEST LIVE GAME
TEEN PATTI PLATINUM BEST CARD GAME ON AN APP(Winner)
ADDA52.COM: GAUSSIAN NETWORKS BEST CARD GAME ON AN APP(Runner-up)
DARKARTA – A Broken Heart’s  Quest BEST FANTASY GAME APP
FANTASTIC CHEFS BEST GAMING APP(Winner)
MPL & MPL PRO BEST GAMING APP(Runner-Up)
MOBILE PREMIER LEAGUE EMERGING INDIAN GAMING COMPANY(Winner)
GRID LOGIC GAMES EMERGING INDIAN GAMING COMPANY (Runner-Up)

 

Categories
Business Gaming

Ace2Three parent company launches new sports content venture Cricket.com

Head Digital Works Private Limited (formerly Head Infotech Private Limited), the parent company of leading online rummy website Ace2Three, has announced the launch of its latest venture Cricket.com- a sports content platform providing live updates, predictions, data analysis and syndicated content about cricket matches at a private function in Mumbai today.

The star studded opening ceremony was attended by retired and current international cricketers such as Rohit Sharma, Brian Lara, Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardhene and Smriti Mandhana, where the Cricket.com website and mobile application were officially unveiled.

According to the company, the launch of the new portal is in line with its diversification plans which began after its entry into fantasy sports through an investment in Fanfight and launch of its social gaming platform WittyGames.

The new cricket portal is expected to offer an exciting experience to cricket fans with a greater focus on the use of data in live match scenarios. The editorial and content of the new platform will be led by veteran sports journalist Prem Panicker.

Speaking on the occasion, Deepak Gullapalli, CEO of Head Digital Works noted, “The launch of cricket.com is part of a larger blueprint for the company. India’s biggest religion is cricket and we want to play a bigger role in this space. We already have a sports game platform via Fanfight and we plan to reach out to a larger base of fans via cricket.com. The plan for the organisation includes diversification of the businesses and expansion of our footprint beytnd Indian markets.”

The company also stated in a press release that with the launch of this new initiative, it plans to consolidate its position as a market leader in the gaming space and transition into a gaming and digital entertainment conglomerate.

Categories
Events

IAMAI announces GATO gaming awards, nominations now open

Premier industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has announced the inaugural edition of GATO awards that will be presented at the second edition of the’Gaming for Tomorrow’ (GATO 2.0) conference which is scheduled to be held on 24th April, 2019 at The Leela Ambience in Gurugram.

IAMAI has announced that it would be handing out awards to eight categories of top performing Indian gaming companies as given below:

  • Best Gaming App
  • Best Live Game
  • Best Fantasy Game App
  • Best Card Game on an App
  • Best use of AR/VR in a Game
  • Emerging Indian Gaming Company
  • Best Affiliate Partner for Gaming
  • Best Mobile Ad Network for Gaming

Further, the mobile association is accepting nominations for games which were active in the Indian markets anytime between 1st April 2017 to 31st March, 2019.  The last date for submitting nominations for entries is 28th March, 2019. Entries can be submitted through the GATO event webpage by paying an entry fee of Rs. 1,180/- and filling out the nomination form.

Besides the award ceremony, the day-long GATO 2.0 event is scheduled to have several panel discussions and presentations on various topics concerning the gaming industry including games of skill, social and casual gaming, gaming technology and esports.

The first edition of Gaming for Tomorrow was held in December 2017 and saw participation from top executives of various gaming companies such as Adda52, Taj Rummy, Winzo Games, Ace2Three and VCommission, among others.

Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Has the Kerala High Court made a factual error in ignoring 1976 govt notification while passing rummy for stakes order?

Exclusive A division bench of the Kerala High Court in an order passed last month, surprisingly ruled that playing rummy for stakes would amount to the offence of gaming/gambling under the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960.

The court based its decision on the precedents set by the Supreme Court, Madras High Court and Kerala High Court, while also noting that the wording of the definitions of gaming and common gaming house in the Kerala legislation are slightly different from the Public Gambling Act, 1867 or other similar gambling legislations.

The court in its order, also noted that in the Kerala Gaming Act, there is a provision in the form of Section 14A which states that the state government may, if they are satisfied that in any game the element of skill is more predominant than the element of chance, by notification in the official gazette, exempt such game from all or any provisions of the Act subject to restrictions or conditions as may be prescribed.

The court in paragraph 19 of its order goes on to state, ‘Admittedly, no notification was issued by the Government, exempting the game of rummy for stakes.’

This portion of the court’s judgment however seems to be factually inaccurate, leading to an entirely incorrect conclusion being drawn by the court.

The Kerala state government has in 1976 issued a notification, SRO No. 1045/76  under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 that states that the government being satisfied that skill being more predominant than chance exempts six games: rummy; card games- 28, 56 and 112; dart throw; ball throw; cup and coin; and shooting contests from all the provisions of the Kerala Gaming Act. The only condition imposed in the notification is that side-betting cannot be allowed in the aforementioned six games.

Since the game of rummy has been clearly exempted from all provisions of the Kerala Gaming Act; staking money or making profit from the game of rummy cannot amount to an offence under the said Act. The only condition imposed under the that ‘side-betting’ is not permitted. While no definition of the word ‘side-betting’ has been given in the notification, a reasonable interpretation of the word side-betting would mean that betting or wagering by third parties not participating in the game would be impermissible.

It would be interesting to see if a review petition is filed in the Kerala High Court to get the judgment corrected in light of the notification of the state government clearly exempting the game of rummy from the ambit of the gaming legislation, which it seems, was not brought to the attention of the court.