We missed this earlier: A private member’s bill that proposes to set up an Online Gaming Commission for regulating the online gaming industry was introduced by Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Dean Kuriakose from the Congress party. Kuriakose represents the Idukki constituency in Kerala. The proposed Commission can deliberate upon limitations such as the amount of time one can play the game every day and the amount of money one can spend on such games, etc.
The Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill, 2022, is necessary to prevent fraud and misuse as India has around 420 million active online gamers and the industry is slated to grow to $5 billion by 2025, the draft said.
“..more people will be exposed to online games in the coming years. The effect of long hours of gaming, especially amongst adolescents, is well known. It can impair normal socialisation, can cause physical and mental harm and even monetary loss,” read the draft bill viewed by MediaNama.
It said that these games had addictive properties and children were likely to succumb to peer pressure and spend on “in-app purchases’ available in these games.
The Bill is a timely reminder of how the gaming sector is in need of regulations to protect users and facilitate growth. A regulatory framework may also provide clarity to investors looking to provide capital to gaming startups.
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What’s the proposed structure of the OGC?
A recurring expenditure of Rs. 100 crores every year will be incurred by the Commission, as per the Bill. “A non-recurring expenditure of rupees one hundred crore is also likely to be involved,” read the draft.
Who will be the members of the OGC?
The commission shall consist of the following members who will be expected to hold office for a period of three years:
- Five members nominated by the Union Government which will include experts from the following:
- Cyber technology
- Law enforcement
When can they be removed from office?
The Union Government will have the power to remove a person from the office if they:
- Become an undischarged insolvent
- Convicted and sentenced to imprisonment
- Unsound mind as declared by a competent court
- Refuses to act or becomes incapable of discharging his functions
- Abuses his position as a member
What will the Commission do?
The Bill lays down the following functions:
- Provide oversight of the functioning of Online Gaming Websites
- Prepare periodical or reports on online gaming for the Union Government
- Suggest measures to control or curb illegal online gaming
- Grant, suspend, and revoke the licence of online gaming websites
- Determine fee for licence applications and renewals of such websites
What will the proposed licensing regime look like?
A licence will be obtainable once an application is submitted by a company along with the fee and evaluated by the Commission, according to the Bill. A licence shall be valid for a period of six years unless it is cancelled or surrendered and it will not be transfferable.
The Bill prohibits any operation, including server operations, by a gaming company without a licence. It stipulates imprisonment of up to three years and a fine for anyone found guilty of running an online gaming website without a licence.
The requirement of a licence will not be applicable to companies providing backend services in India, including hosting and maintenance services, and for any international gaming website based outside India.
“The cancellation, surrender, or expiry of a licence shall not affect any liability for anything done or omitted to be done before the date on which it ceases to have effect,” read the draft.
A licensee will have to apply for renewal at the end of six years by furnishing a fee. The Bill does not say if the renewal fee will be the same as the application fee.
What are the proposed grounds for suspension of the licence?
The OGC is proposed to have the power to suspend or cancel the licence, after giving the licensee an opportunity to be heard, on the following grounds:
- If there has been a breach of any of the conditions subject to which the licence was granted
- If the licensee has contravened any of the provisions of this Bill
The licensee will be liable for punishment in the form of a fine. They also have to exhibit the conditions under which the licence was granted on their website in addition to rules governing the conduct of online gaming. The licensees will also have to maintain accounts on its website and submit it to the OGC.
How is the OGC proposed to conduct investigations?
The OGC has been given the power to request the police to investigate any acts of violations of the Bill. A police officer, not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, will be permitted to search premises and seize materials in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
All offences under this chapter shall be cognizable and bailable, the Bill revealed.
What are the rules and regulations left for OGC to draft?
The rules to implement this Bill are proposed to be drafted by the OGC and they will concern the following matters:
- Form and manner of applying for a licence
- Fees to be paid for its grant or renewal
- Conditions subject to which it may be granted
- Manner of keeping accounts on the website
- Intervals at which they shall be submitted to the OGC
- Age restrictions for persons who may be employed in online gaming or permitted to play such games online
- Guidelines for admission of participants and the fees to be charged from them
- Type of notices to be exhibited and the manner in which they are to be exhibited on the websites
- Provision of credit facilities by the licensee to participants
- Prohibition or regulation of participation by proxy in online gaming
- Fines to be paid by persons for violations
China‘s draft rules to regulate online gaming
China has been busy since last year as it brought out several guidelines that regulate the online gaming space and their impact on minors. Online gaming companies in China will have to establish and improve game rules to prevent minors from becoming addicted to online games, as per the draft rules released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) in March this year.
The rules direct gaming companies to ensure that minors do not come in contact with game content or functions that will affect their physical and mental health. They require many online service providers, such as gaming, live-streaming, OTT, and social networking companies to set up youth modes for minors to use their services.
The rules also mandate gaming companies to come up with age-appropriate standards and norms which are displayed prominently on user download, registration, and login interfaces. Some of these norms include labelling, evaluating game elements to categorise products as per the physical and psychological traits of minors at different ages, and denoting the true age range that the games are suitable for, according to the draft rules.
Moreover, in August last year, the Chinese government issued a new set of rules limiting the amount of time minors can spend on online gaming to three hours per week in an effort to combat addiction. It is likely to have prompted Kuriakose’s proposal to include a provision for limitations in the Bill.
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