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There is no proposal to include online gaming with gambling: MeitY in response to a parliamentary question

Real money games have grown in India since the onset of the pandemic yet regulations across states remain inconsistent.

The Indian government has no proposal to include online gaming under the category of gambling, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha.

The ministry said that “the government is aware of the growing number of online games available in India and also the opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship associated with them”. However, MeitY said that it did not have precise details about the market size of online gaming in India.

The growing number of app-based games also forced the ministry to acknowledge the possible risks and challenges including that of user harms associated with such games and their advertisements, the response revealed. When asked whether there was a plan to discontinue such games, the ministry said that “all forms of gambling and betting come under the purview of state governments”.

The ministry’s response sheds light on the stance that the Union government is likely to take on regulation of online gaming and whether it will be clubbed with gambling.

IndiaTech demands separate treatment of online gaming and gambling

MeitY’s response in Parliament must come as a relief to players in the industry who had written to the government last month demanding the same. In a letter to the Indian government last year, IndiaTech urged MeitY to frame online gaming guidelines at the national level which can be followed by the states. It clarified that certain online games have an element of skill despite the involvement of money, distinguishing them from betting and gambling.

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“Online skill-based gaming should be treated differently from gambling, betting and horse racing,” read the letter sent by IndiaTech, a tech industry association representing India’s consumer internet start-ups and investors.

The association recommended that the rules must not be applicable to any form of online gaming where there is a preponderance of skill over chance, thereby covering online fantasy sports effectively. Dream11 and MPL are two of the prominent members of IndiaTech.

Considering a uniform approach towards gambling

Currently, there is no national framework regulating the online gaming space in India. But the Union government previously disclosed that it was exploring a “uniform approach” to regulating online gambling and real money gaming, as per a letter seen by MediaNama.

In the letter obtained via an RTI, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw wrote to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, stating: “The subject of “betting and gambling” falls under the jurisdiction of the State Governments under Entries 34 and 62 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India,” but that “the Government is cognizant of the issues arising because of different legislations in different States in the area of regulation of online gaming and the matter is under consideration to have a uniform approach on this matter.”

The absence of regulations has caused several disruptions as different states adopt conflicting approaches to gaming regulation which also includes a blanket ban. Many states have been changing their local gambling laws to regulate online gambling and sites, following which the betting and gambling industry has been obtaining court orders (like the one issued by Madras High Court) that have made it difficult for states to restrict gambling and betting activities that require some skill.

It’s not clear what action the government will decide on — its actions could range from a “model law” that states could choose to emulate, to a constitutional amendment that would give it more powers to regulate online gaming.

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Written By

I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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