2019 went by with a number of stories and updates that had us jumping, while there were also a few not-so-happy updates from around the world. Overall, it was a good year and decade for the gaming industry, especially for India and we’ve listed down the top 20 gaming stories of the year just gone by. You can read Part 1 of this series here and keep reading this article for Part 2 of the top gaming stories of 2019…
Legally, sports betting and gambling isn’t allowed in India. However, there’s no concrete law in place that specifies placing bets on offshore betting websites. Currently, several bookmakers are accepting bets from Indians through various deposit methods. Betfair is among the biggest online sportsbooks in the world and it came as a major blow to Indian punters when they decided to stop operations in India, in January 2019. Betfair sent an email to their users to notify them about the same and gave them time till the end of the month to withdraw existing funds. Currently, Betfair isn’t accessible from India.
PokerStars India launched operations in April 2018 and it was only in the second month of 2019 that they decided to bring a Bollywood actor on board as their brand ambassador. Probably one of the most versatile actors in the country, Nawazuddin Siddiqui was hired as the brand’s new face, while poker players Muskan Sethi, Aditya Agarwal and Sharad Rao were poker ambassadors for the brand. It wasn’t long before Nawaz came out with a series of internet as well as television ads for the brand. PokerStars India became the first poker brand to advertise on mainstream television while also later coming on board as associate sponsor for reality TV show, Bigg Boss.
It wasn’t the happiest Easter 2019 for the island country of Sri Lanka as we woke up to horror news of multiple bombings in the country which left quite a few dead, hundreds injured and of course, many more affected physically and mentally. The initial count suggested that at least 137 people were killed in 7 initial explosions which took place at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targetted during Easter services. Casino operations came to a standstill and it was tough to get in contact with anyone from there, as there were curfews in place while the internet was also blocked by the government. It took a few months for the emerald island to recover from this horrific day!
As a result of a merger between European Poker Awards and the American Poker Awards, Global Poker Index (GPI) hosted the first-ever Global Poker Awards which felicitated poker players from around the world across 20 categories. The nominees were announced in March while the awards took place in April, which saw Almedin ‘Ali’ Imsirovic winning the Breakout Player of the Year award and Justin Bonomo winning the Moment of the Year category for taking the WSOP One for One Drop title. The latter managed to overtake Daniel Negreanu as the richest poker player too, only until Bryn Kenney overtook him a while later. John Cynn won the best Tournament Performance award obviously for winning the WSOP 2018 Main Event! GPI has already announced the second edition of these awards in 2020!
It was another year of being in the headlines for Daniel Negreanu. Shortly after getting married to long-time girlfriend Amanda Leatherman, the former all-time list number #1 ended his association with global poker leader, PokerStars, having been an ambassador for the company for over 12 years. He helped the company grow across the world and finally decided it was time to move on to something new. A few months later, it was announced that Negreanu will now be the face of GGPoker, another online poker brand. Negreanu was in the news once again when he was announced as Player of the Year, only later to realize it was a clerical error and the award actually went to Robert Campbell.
The Electronic Gaming Review (EGR) Awards are among the most prestigious awards in the field of online gaming across the world. The annual awards ceremony was hosted again in 2019 and Indian online operator 9stacks (sign-up with code “GUTSHOT”) was also bestowed with an award on 25th June 2019 at the Tower of London, collected by CEO and co-founder, Sudhir Kamath. They won an award for the ‘Best Poker Marketing Campaign’ category, up against global heavyweights like The Stars Group (Pokerstars) and The Kindred Group (Unibet). The two main campaigns that came up in recent months were the rap song ‘Hustle Hai’ and the more recent web series called ‘Pokerface with Gopal Datt’.
Everyone knows that taxation is one of the biggest problem that the Indian poker industry is facing and in August this year, players and admins of the Facebook group ‘The Players Group (TPG)’ decided to take strict action against Adda52, online poker brand that refused to change its TDS policy, one which hasn’t allowed the growth of the economy, with only a selected number of players ending as profitable players. Adda52’s outdated TDS policy for MTTs led to players paying way more than they do on other online poker platforms in India, which prompted the players to host a mass boycott of Adda52 featured tournaments. Finally, Adda52 decided to institute a change which will be effective from January 2020!
The India Poker Championship (IPC) returned to the shores of Goa with a fun and glamorous poker event that took place between 11-15 September 2019 on board the Big Daddy Casino in River Mandovi. Having last held a tournament series in 2016, IPC came back with a bang with a number of celebrities, enthusiasts, poker pros and more participating in the festivities. Eventually, it was Pune’s Raj Talwar who took home top honours by winning the IPC Main Event while Pranay Chawla was the biggest winner for shipping the IPC Highroller. The series did well for a number of reasons and one of them was the 100% TDS refund available to players while ‘King of Instagram’ Dan Bilzerian was also present at the event.
In what could be described as an extremely positive piece of news for the sport of poker in the country, the Calcutta High Court declared, once again, that poker is a game of skill. The Jalpaiguri circuit bench of the Calcutta High Court issued this ruling at the end of August in the matter of India Poker Association (IPA) versus the State of West Bengal case. The circuit court mentioned, that as per the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competition Act, 1957, poker does not fall under the ambit of gambling and as such local law enforcement cannot disrupt or interfere in any poker games which are conducted by the club in question. This solidified further evidence in favour of poker being treated as a game of skill rather than chance.
This happened not too long ago. The year was coming to an end and so was Aditya ‘Intervention’ Agarwal’s long-lasting relationship with PokerStars. While Muskan Sethi, Sharado Rao and Nawazuddin Siddiqui came on board recently, Agarwal was the only Indian brand ambassador when the brand had still not come to India. Known as one of the best players in India, Adi did much to help grow the game in India and he believed his work with the brand was done, which he announced to the community through a social media post on the morning of 28th December. It will be interesting to see what route Agarwal takes now!
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