Gambling Judgement

INTRODUCTION

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (SC) has on 6 March 2020 stayed the operation of the judgment of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court (Bombay HC) in the case of Gurdeep Singh Sachar v Union of India & Ors dated 30 April 2019 (Gurdeep Singh Case) until further notice. The Bombay HC had, in the Gurdeep Singh Case, upheld the legality of online fantasy sports gaming in India as games that are preponderantly games of skill. This casts doubts, for the time being, over legality of online fantasy sports games in India. The growth in this industry, among other things, had stemmed from the various judicial decisions of the High Courts upholding virtual / online fantasy sports games as games involving ‘considerable and substantial degree of skill’ – which are games that are not within the purview of gambling laws in India.

POSITIONS UNDER VARIOUS HIGH COURT JUDGMENTS

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The leading judicial precedent so far for online fantasy sports gaming has been the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court (P&H HC) in the case of Varun Gumber v Union Territory of Chandigarh and Ors (Varun Gumber Case). The P&H HC held, among other things, that success in Dream11 arises out of a user’s exercise of superior knowledge, judgment and attention and that Dream11’s games are exempt from the provisions of the Public Gambling Act 1867 (PG Act) as they require a substantial degree or preponderance of skill.

After the Varun Gumber Case, a criminal public interest litigation was filed before the Bombay HC by one Mr Gurdeep Singh Sachar against Dream11 contending that Dream11 was (a) carrying out gambling / betting / wagering in the guise of ‘online fantasy sports gaming’ in violation of applicable laws; and (b) evading taxes by levying inadequate goods and services tax (GST) on such offerings. Relying on the analysis of the P&H HC in the Varun Gumber Case, the Bombay HC held that the activities and offerings of Dream11 were permitted in law and were not illegal operations of gambling or betting in the guise of online fantasy sports gaming. It also concluded that there was no evasion of GST by Dream11 due to the activities not amounting to gambling.

The most recent judgment was delivered in February 2020 by the Hon’ble High Court of Rajasthan (Raj HC) in Chandresh Sankhla v State of Rajasthan and Ors. The Raj HC endorsed the views of the Bombay HC in the Gurdeep Singh Case as well as those of the P&H HC in the Varun Gumber Case. The Raj HC, whilst citing the dismissal of the special leave petitions filed against Gurdeep Singh Case and the Varun Gumber Case in the SC (as detailed below), had stated that the issue of treating the Dream11 game as having any element of betting / gambling is no more res integra (ie, a point of law that is undecided or without a precedent).

APPEAL BEFORE THE SC AGAINST THE GURDEEP SINGH CASE

The decision of the Bomaby HC in the Gurdeep Singh Case was challenged before the SC in 2019. The fundamental petition challenging the views of the Bombay HC regarding Dream11 being a game of skill was dismissed outright by the SC. However, in a separate order clubbing various other appeals including an appeal made by the Government of India, the SC had permitted the Government of India to apply to the Bombay HC for a specific review of the applicability of GST to Dream11’s operations. Following this, Mr Sachar once again approached the SC seeking a clarification on the scope of this order, and urging the SC to permit the Bombay HC to review whether the games offered by Dream11 amount to gambling or betting in order to appropriately determine the applicability of GST to Dream11’s operations. However, this too was dismissed by the SC.

Thereafter, the State of Maharashtra separately filed a special leave petition in the SC, challenging the decision of the Bombay HC in the Gurdeep Singh Case, which was heard by the SC on 6 March 2020. The SC has now stayed the orders of the Bombay HC in the Gurdeep Singh Case and issued notices to all the parties in the Gurdeep Singh Case for hearing their contentions afresh.

COMMENT:

Act

Even though the views of the P&H HC and the Raj HC continue to be in operation, the SC’s order to put a stay on the operation of one of the seminary judgements regarding online fantasy sports in India has for the time being thrown into doubt the existing judicial endorsements in favour of online fantasy sports in India. Given the current COVID-19 crisis, with the functioning of the SC (like all other institutions) being significantly reduced, the next hearing of the case has been tentatively scheduled for 24 April 2020.

Tough decisions are made tougher with a short bankroll

By John Grochowski

It’s easy to tell others there’s a right way and a wrong way to play video poker hands when it’s their money at risk and not yours.

I’m happy enough to tell 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker players the average return is higher when they hold three aces than when they hold a full house with aces up. Similarly, when Super Double Bonus Poker pays 8-for-1 or less on full houses, breaking up a full house to hold three kings, queens or jacks has a higher expected value than standing pat.

Still, when you see king-king-king-7-7 on your screen in Super Double Bonus, you have to make a judgment call: keep the full house and take a 40-coin payoff for a five- coin bet, or toss the low pair and take the 1 in 47 shot at a 600-coin bonanza for the fourth king.

Gambling Judge

If you’re short on credits, you’ll be sorely tempted to keep the full house even though the average return for holding the three kings alone is 41.44 coins per five wagered – nearly a coin and a half better than holding the pat hand.

If you’re fortunate enough to find a Super Double Bonus machine that pays 9-for-1 on a full house, there’s no dilemma. The flat 45-coin pays for standing pat is the way to go.

But when you’re weighing a flat 40-coin return vs. a potential 41.4 return, but a likelihood of dropping to 15, I can’t blame a player with a limited bankroll for thinking twice.

A reader recently took the dilemma to another level, writing that he plays 8-5 Super Double Bonus on a quarter Ten Play Poker machine.

Gambling Judgement

“I can see where the strategy by math would be to break up the full house and go for the 600-coin pay on four of a kind faces. Still, you fail to improve the hand and are stuck with three of a kind a lot more often than not, so it’s hard to pull the trigger.

Judgement gambling hall

“It’s especially hard if you’re playing multiple hands, like Triple Play, Five Play or Ten Play. If I’m on Ten Play with 8-for-1 payoffs on full houses, then standing pat on a full house brings me a guaranteed 400 coins. Do I really want to risk that for the chance that one of those hands might turn into a 600-coin pay, but I might drop all the way down to 150? I’m putting 250 coins at risk there.”

Now, I’ll always point out the upside of making the stronger mathematical play. That’s the way I roll, but close-call decisions are always up to you and dependent on your bankroll and goals. And I can’t blame someone betting 50 quarters per hand for being wary of putting a 400-quarter, that’s $100, payoff at risk.

There is no way to tell before you see the draw what it will bring. I once drew a fourth queen on three of my Five Play hands, giving me an 1,830-coin bonanza instead of the 200 I’d have won by standing pat on a full house. I’ve also had hundreds of hands, drawing to three faces, I’ve been left with nothing but triplets.

If you’re serious about getting the most out of the video poker games you play and are sufficiently bankrolled, then making a play that gives you a 41-coin average pay instead of 40 is automatic.

But that requires accepting that sometimes, even most of the time, your payoff is going to drop to 15 coins per hand.

If angling for a penny per hand average gain doesn’t do it to you, if the thought of dropping from a guaranteed 40-cent per hand win to a mere 15 makes your stomach queasy, if the state of your day’s gambling bankroll means standing pat will make a big difference, then stand pat.

When the best mathematical play is in conflict with your goals and needs, then you have to make a judgment call.

I will admit to making a judgment call for a non-optimal play from time to time, and once even did it on a very big stage.

That came way back in 2000 – and I can’t believe this is 19 years ago – when I was sitting opposite Regis Philbin in the hot seat of ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

Judgement

I had correctly answered the $125,000 question, and for $250,000 was asked to choose the scientist whose work indicated the universe is expanding.

I thought the answer was Edwin Hubble, said so on the air, and was correct. But I wasn’t certain, and if I was wrong, I’d drop to $32,000. I had some expenses to take care of at the time, and the difference between $125,000 and $32,000 would make a big difference.

So I walked away and stayed at $125,000.

Gambling Judgements

Gambling

Immediately afterward, I read on a gambling website that I’d made the wrong decision, that the potential reward was greater than the potential loss, and that if I thought I had even a 50 percent chance of being correct my average return was higher if I took the chance.

Gambling Supreme Court Judgement

The circumstances are different and the stakes higher, but that’s pretty much the same dilemma faced by a player who has a $100 guarantee on the screen and must choose whether to chase higher rewards with the risk of dropping to $37.50.

Gambling Judgemental

If you barely have lunch money in your wallet, your choice might be different than if you have a few hundreds. It’s easy to talk theory with someone else’s money, but individual circumstances sometimes mean the highest average return has to take a back seat to a guaranteed win.