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No data on losses suffered, suicides due to online gambling: MEITY

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology does not maintain any data about the incidents of financial losses and suicides as a result of online gambling in the country, it said in response to a question in the Parliament.

Thirunavukkarasar Su., a Congress MP from Tamil Nadu, had raised questions about online gambling in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

He asked MEITY whether it was aware of the suicide and financial losses suffered and whether it maintained records of the incidents. He also asked whether the government has any proposal to set up a self-regulatory body to standardise regulations governing the online gaming sector and details about any such moves.

Sanjay Dhotre, the Minister of State at MEITY, simply stated that betting and gambling are state subjects under the Constitution, and hence state government have framed their own laws and regulations. Police and public order are also state subjects; so they are responsible for prevention and investigations.  “The Law Enforcement Agencies take legal action against the cybercrime offenders as per the provisions of applicable laws,” MEITY said.

The central government’s think tank, NITI Aayog, had proposed a government-recognised self-regulatory organisation for online ‘fantasy sports’ or ‘fantasy gaming’ platforms such as Dream11, Mobile Premier League, My11Circle. These companies offer games played for stakes and depending on the state one is regulated in, is either termed gambling or termed skill-based gambling.

While many states permit skill-based games with stakes, the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have outlawed all forms of gaming involving stakes, whether it be skill-based or chance-based. Kerala has removed the exemption for rummy being a skill-game. Other states, including Rajasthan and Gujarat plan to introduce their own laws regulating such games.

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NITI Aayog had proposed a self-regulatory organisation to ensure that that fantasy gaming companies stay within legal limits, follow rules, resolve customer complaints, and even reach out to state governments that view fantasy gaming unfavourably. Its discussion paper had recommended a “light-touch” regulatory framework, stating that government recognition of fantasy sports industry is in “public interest” and having an identity “distinct from other games of skill and legally differentiated from betting and gambling”.

Esports different from gambling, gaming: Kiren Rijiju

Over a month ago, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju said e-sports is skill-based and different from gaming or ‘igaming’ and gambling, which are chance-based. The Indian Sports Ministry does not currently recognise any e-sports federations or associations, even though Electronic Sports Federation of India (ESFI), E-sports Development Association of India (EDAI) and E-sports India (EI) have emerged for promotion of e-sports.

Companies offering different games involving stakes for winnings are attempting to position themselves as ‘gaming’ companies to gain more legitimacy.

The Minister was responding on a question to BJP MP Jagdambika Pal on whether the government plans to introduce a e-sports and gaming policy. Rijiju said e-sports is an emerging platform for the youth population; and that e-sports has been included in the Asian Games 2022 as a medal sport discipline but has not yet been included in the Olympics.

She also wanted to know whether the government:

  1. Plans to bring sports and gaming under the concurrent list
  2. Plans to take any steps to regulate illegal gaming, betting, and gambling
  3. Has any estimate on the size/value of the gaming industry in India
  4. Plans to take any steps to introduce educational gaming

Sports is a state subject and there is no proposal to bring it under the concurrent list; the Department of Sports supplements state government efforts through schemes. No study has been carried out to estimate the gaming industry’s size and value in India, the Ministry said.

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