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It Is High Time to Regulate Online Gaming in India

The online gaming industry in India has been going through an unprecedented growth in the last few years on the wings of a young and tech-savvy population, a rising penetration of affordable but ever more powerful smartphones and cheap mobile data plans, and the overall progress in technological development.

By PP Team 
Updated Date

AIGF CEO Roland Landers Recommends Responsible Gaming Measures

“As the (gaming) industry has grown phenomenally so far, the next level of growth is highly dependent on a well-defined regulatory framework,” Roland Landers, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), states in a recent publication on the need of a uniform legal framework for gaming authored by him. “New regulations would help push gaming platforms to consider educating players about gaming responsibly, implementing self-checks and self exclusion etc.,” Landers writes.

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The online gaming industry in India has been going through an unprecedented growth in the last few years on the wings of a young and tech-savvy population, a rising penetration of affordable but ever more powerful smartphones and cheap mobile data plans, and the overall progress in technological development.

According to projections, the sector is poised to reach a value of $3 billion and a user base of 510 million people by 2025. Within the last 17 months, the Indian gaming industry consisting of more than 400 startups has attracted investments to the tune of $1.7 billion and has been speeding up on the new job opportunity creation front.

At the same time, Landers points out, gaming portals have been evolving into digital social platforms and hubs where different industries intersect, as players use them to “meet, communicate, watch live-streamed events, listen to music, and make purchases.” The impact of online gaming also “spans across successful movie franchises, arena-based tournaments, toys and more.”

However, despite numerous Apex and High Court verdicts that differentiate online skill games from fast withdrawal casino and other chance-based games and gambling, states continue to have different approaches to the subject.

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Consistent judicial practice confirms the status of skill games as “protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the constitution as the success depends principally upon the superior knowledge, training, attention, experience and adroitness of the player.” Nevertheless, “the absence of comprehensive regulations in this sector makes the subject complex,” Roland Landers writes.

“The government must take a progressive step towards effectively regulating this sector currently governed by old-fashioned views and laws,” in order to avoid the danger of Indian gaming startups moving operations to places with favorable policies like the US, the UK, Ireland or the UAE, AIGF CEO urges.

How Should Indian Regulations over Gaming Look Like?

In a globalized world and a time when the internet reaches almost every corner of the Earth, it is only logical to expect a number of issues, including the question on how exactly to regulate online gaming, to have a globalized reach as well. And indeed, a number of countries around the world, counting many members of the European Union and states in the US, the UK, South American Peru and Uruguay, and others, have worked to develop their own regulatory systems on the subject.

Instead of trying to invent the wheel, India should just look at what other countries have already done, take the best practices and adapt them to the local cultural, social and economic realities. The common traits of virtually all gaming regulations around the world include a central gaming authority, a licensing regime, and a general focus towards customer protection and responsible gaming.

Such a national-level gaming body can not only oversee gaming activities and control licensing practice in the country, but can also work towards classifying all games based on their gameplay and rules. This would finally give desi players and authorities a clear and universally valid distinction paradigm between games of skill that deserve adequate treatment and games of chance that are suitable for an Indian online casino with all the corresponding tax and other obligations.

The responsible gaming policies Roland Landers is talking about have long ago established themselves as the cornerstone which gaming regulations revolve around. Responsible gaming has two sides, on the one hand it involves standards and obligations for operators to follow, and on the other hand it provides tools to players that help them control their own behavior.

Gaming providers are required to identify and protect problem gamers, for this they have to verify digital IDs and cease sending commercial offers to vulnerable users. A number of restrictions on transaction amounts, login times, playing on credit, and others are also employed.

Easily accessible self-exclusion systems give players the opportunity to have an efficient time-out at the press of a button. Blacklists for both operators and customers exclude entities and individuals involved in fraud, bankruptcy, various criminal activities, professional gambling, etc.

A robust, progressive and sensible regulatory framework over online gaming on the central level in India can ensure the necessary healthy business climate for the industry to grow, bring prosperity and create jobs, an enhanced tax collection for the government to fund its agenda and various welfare projects, and last but not least – a safe gaming environment for the citizens.

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