We must formulate a structured gaming law that allows players to enjoy the thrill of online gaming in a responsible, safe, transparent and secure manner.

Online gaming has quickly become the most attractive form of entertainment in India due to younger demographics, increased internet penetration and affordable smartphones. The evolution of technologies resulting in immersive experiences has led more people to embrace this new form of entertainment instead of passive forms.

The popularity of online games, including esports, online casual games and real money games, can be measured easily with the industry growing at a rate of around 35% in 2019-2020, exceeding OTT platforms, TV and social media. Propelled by the mobile-first phenomenon and around 420 million players already active, online gaming is shaking up conventional forms of entertainment.

Like all social change and most new technologies, the industry has operated under the weight of societal ramifications and perceptual ambiguity – real money online gambling is often confused with gambling. skill (fantasy chess, bridge, rummy and poker) are legal and constitutionally protected, games of chance (roulette, teen patti and dice) are essentially about gambling and therefore considered illegal.

According to the Indian Constitution, the game is classified in the state list. States have the power to regulate or prohibit such activity. Failing to distinguish between gambling and skill-based online gambling, some states have either imposed restrictions or buried the emerging sector under regulatory ambivalence.

This is unfortunate given that “games of skill” are legitimate commercial activities protected by Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution, as per rulings of the Supreme Court and several high courts in this regard. day. These decisions also emphasized a clear distinction between “games of skill” and “games of chance”.

Last year, the Tamil Nadu government amended the Tamil Nadu Gambling and Police Acts of 1930 banning online gambling. The ordinance prohibited all forms of online gambling and stated that “games of simple skill whether played for wagers, wagers, money or other stakes” cannot be permitted in the State. The Madras High Court, however, struck down the law in August 2021, finding a full ban to be unconstitutional. The Court also recognized that a game involving substantial skill would not constitute a game of chance. It also protected online games and the nuances surrounding them, thus removing the ambiguity between games and gambling as well as the legal status of online games of skill in India.

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The government recently formed a four-member committee to examine issues related to online gambling and make recommendations for the enactment of an order to regulate the sector. Constituted against the backdrop of reports of unfortunate cases of people engaging in irresponsible gambling, the committee will look at ways to identify addictive online games and suggest whether such games really involve skill or mere trickery. It will also study online gaming algorithms to see if they can be changed to benefit online gaming companies.

This initiative is certainly welcome and demonstrates the government’s progressive desire to protect the interests of players. However, to truly protect players, the regulatory confusion requires a complete overhaul. The way forward is to formulate a structured gambling law that allows players to enjoy the thrill of online gambling in a responsible, safe, transparent and secure manner.

For players, industry and government, the need of the hour is to recognize the importance of responsible gambling and to develop a regulatory framework defined by progressive policies to monitor and mitigate the possibility of irresponsible gambling. Attempts to address potential issues with bans will only result in players migrating from legitimate skill-based online operators to overnight operators and lead to unchecked illegal activities, inadvertently compounding the problem the government seeks. to solve.

Regulation and responsible gaming will provide players with a safe and trustworthy environment. Combining responsible gaming elements with effective policies and referral services would help shape a strategy centered on player protection and stakeholder awareness and education. While keeping responsible gaming and self-regulation at its core, EGF has already designed and implemented its own code of conduct which requires operators to have features such as KYC, SSL-level encryption, risk flagging, daily and monthly restrictions, self-exclusion, and so on, to provide a secure user experience that cultivates healthy gaming habits and encourages appropriate gaming behavior.

Globally, gambling is a well-regulated industry and many countries including the UK, US and EU have regulations in place to ensure players enjoy this form of entertainment. responsibly. Studying these global best practices would help create gaming law that protects players, encourages responsible gaming, and helps legitimate operators while weeding out those who break the law.

The online gambling industry is committed to providing its expertise and cooperation to the government in developing an effective regulatory framework for the sector. Given this, a dialogue between government and industry is urgently needed to discuss ground realities such as how the industry operates, what security measures are available and how it can be improved to develop a system standard that will establish a regulated industry while encouraging responsible gaming.

The author is CEO, E-Gaming Federation

About Dorie Castro

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