Along with the digitalization of India initiative, the Online gaming sector has been growing rapidly due to accessible and affordable Internet, and smartphone penetration. The recent covid pandemic has altered many aspects of our life. The way we enjoy ourselves is just one of them.
The growing popularity of online gaming has gone unnoticed amid the explosion of OTT channels and the increase in viewing hours. The amount of time spent playing online games has increased by roughly 65% since Covid’s launch. More than 43 crore individuals have been connected to virtual games. Online gaming is divided into the following three categories.
- E-sports: E-sports are high competitive video games that are played on consoles in video game shops, personal computers, and high-end mobile devices in an organised way between professional players, individually or as teams.
- Fantasy sports: Users of fantasy sports platforms can select their favourite sports teams or athletes and earn points based on how well those athletes perform in actual competitions.
- Online casual games: Online casual games could be skill-based games or games of chance. All games that are played based on a player’s prior knowledge or expertise with the game are considered to be games of skill. Like- Chess, Carrom, Rummy etc. A person will need abilities like analytical decision-making, capability, logical thinking, etc. However, games of chance are all those games that are played randomly, without prior knowledge or understanding. For example- dice games, picking a number, etc.
Recently, the Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill, 2022 has been introduced in Lok Sabha, which intends to protect online gaming’s integrity and provide a legal framework for it. To stop unlawful internet gaming, the Bill was created.
Features of the Bill
The Online Gaming Commission, to be established by the Central Government, will serve as a “watchdog” and have the authority to monitor the operation of online gaming websites and take action to prevent illegal online gaming. Bill envisages a licensing regime and gives the Commission the authority to grant, suspend, and revoke licenses for websites that offer online gaming. Additionally, it forbids any organization from running an online gaming server or website without a license; doing so would be a criminal offense.
The Commission would also have the authority to create regulations regarding licensing, accounting procedures, who may be allowed to play online games, organization, and the collection of certain fees in the form of taxes. In short, the Bill intends to establish multiple checks and balances by giving the Commission regulatory authority.
Issues with the Bill
The Bill, however, may be very retrogressive because it fails to distinguish between platforms for real money gaming and casual gaming. A legal framework for real money gambling is urgently needed, as opposed to casual gaming, which is already supervised by several other laws. The Bill aims to create a centralised regulatory organisation under the Central Government with the authority to control online gambling. However, gambling has been a “state subject” and if the Bill passed, may run into legal obstacles. The Bill also ignores several pressing issues like Know Your Customer (KYC) standards, customer complaint processes, user data protection, and other societal problems.
Why Does India Need Regulation of Online Gaming?
Nowadays, the gaming sector is regarded as a significant economic pillar. There may be thousands of new jobs in this emerging area. The market worth of the gaming sector in India, according to Statista.com, was close to USD 1 billion, but due to the country’s youthful population, this figure might increase to $ 3.4 billion by 2024.
In terms of economic rewards as well, a well-regulated online gaming business offers appealing advantages. With over 65.7 million users, this industry is anticipated to produce revenues of about Rs 29,000 crore in 2025. More than 15,000 direct and indirect employment are anticipated to be created.
However, the absence of regulatory control harms this booming sector. There isn’t a complete piece of legislation addressing its legality or distinctions between online gaming and gambling, therefore it falls into a regulatory grey area. In the majority of the country, skill-based games are permitted, whereas games of chance are considered gambling, are viewed as immoral, and are not permitted. Except for Goa, Sikkim, and the Union Territory of Daman, every state in India expressly outlaws all forms of gambling, betting, and wagering on games of chance.
The states of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana have also imposed limitations on skill-based games. Notwithstanding the legal position, a significant portion of people has become strongly dependent on online gambling. This addiction is ruining families and wrecking lives. Our time spent on screens has significantly increased as a result. Without much success, parents throughout the nation try to help their kids set boundaries for using computers and playing video games.
Additionally, this is harming their academic achievement as well as their social lives and family ties. The opportunity cost of this, according to psychologists, is enormous because the impact on health is only getting worse with time. Recently we are also witnessed online games like PUBG and the Blue Whale Challenge which have been banned after incidents of violence and suicide. Another alleged effect of this addiction on our young is nearsightedness. Inadvertently disclosing personal information can also result in instances of fraud, privacy violations, abuse, and bullying.
Appropriate regulation of this industry is urgently required. Government officials must see to it that KYC standards are strengthened. Each game should adhere to a recognized age rating system, and children should only be permitted to continue with their parent’s permission. OTP verification on Aadhaar may be able to help with this. Without parental permission, no in-game purchases should be made, and whenever possible, the in-game chat feature should be blocked. Gamers should be proactively informed by gaming firms about hazards and how to spot possible instances of fraud and abuse.
This organization could be made responsible for the online gaming sector, managing its operations, preventing social problems, classifying games of skill or chance appropriately, monitoring consumer protection, and tackling crime and iniquity.