Online gaming is a sector facing tremendous growth in India, but it also suffers from inconsistent regulation and government oversight. However, 2021 is poised to shake up the industry with the introduction of new advertisement guidelines for online gaming, and the NITI Aayogâ€™s proposed draft of regulation for online fantasy sports in India.
The online gaming industry in India has seen rapid growth the last few years. This industry has also seen some significant growth during the global pandemic, as more individuals were forced to move online. However, the regulation of such games in India continues to be inconsistent across the country with no uniform law guiding online gaming operators. In this article we take a look at the new developments in the regulation of such games.
In terms of regulation, online games which require the use of skill i.e. skill based online gaming, is allowed, while games of chance are hit by the Public Gambling Act. Courts in India have declared in various cases that games where the success of a candidate depends on the use of â€œsubstantial skillâ€, then such games would not be hit by the Indian gambling regulations, even in games of chance. Certain states have also enacted rules excluding â€˜games of skillâ€™ from within the ambit of gambling rules. Online gaming is a matter subject to the State List; hence states are allowed to make regulations in this regard.
Online gaming (skill based online gaming) can be understood to include three main types of gaming: Real money games, mobile centric/casual gaming, and e-sports. As the industry has grown bigger, concerns have been raised about creating a regulatory framework to address the online gaming industry. While no formal frameworks for online gaming have been enacted, the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) recently released new guidelines regulating the advertisement of real money games.
Fantasy sporting games, a subset of real money games, is one of the most popular types of gaming in India. As various industry players have pushed to make the regulation of such games more clear, NITI Aayog has recently proposed draft guidelines to regulate online fantasy sports in India. The guidelines are only a draft and are currently open to reviews and comments from industry stakeholders.
With effect from 15th December 2020, new advertisement guidelines have come into effect for online gaming in India. Specifically, these guidelines cover advertisement of â€˜online games for real money winningsâ€™ i.e. games that require their players to put up money for the possibility of cash or cash equivalent winnings. The ASCI feels that such games run the risk of financial loss and can be addictive in nature, hence require stricter rules for the advertisements of the same.
The ASCI also clarified that they only have the power to regulate the advertising of such games and these guidelines are not meant to regulate online gaming itself.
The guidelines enacted by ASCI are self-regulatory, but the rulings of the ASCI are binding on all its members. Further, the Ministry of Broadcasting has also issued an advisory asking private TV Channels to comply with the ASCI guidelines. The guidelines have been implemented after convening a meeting with industry stakeholders, and were released as part of an effort to make advertisements about online gaming transparent and safe.
NITI Aayog has released a discussion paper for analyzing online fantasy sports and the need for a formal regulation of this sector. As identified in the report, online fantasy sports grew at a rate of 212% from 2016 to 2019, with a potential to attract over INR 10,000 crores in foreign direct investment.
The paper acknowledges the need for uniform national guidelines, as the online fantasy sports now are regulated state-wise which causes greater compliance and operating burdens for them.
The report creates a distinction for online fantasy sporting games away from online gaming, recognizing it as a game of skill that is also reliant on real world sporting events. The proposed guidelines envision setting up a national self-regulatory body that can uniformly regulate the online fantasy sports in India, thereby ensuring consistency in regulation of such games across all states.
The guidelines spell the effort being taken in India in recognizing online gaming and reaping the advantages of the growing sector. The advertisement guidelines are a much needed effort being made by ASCI to protect consumers of online gaming, especially minors. All online gaming companies and operators, as well as private broadcasting channels must follow the guidelines.
The draft guideline proposed by NITI Aayog is the first step in a longer journey to legitimize not only online fantasy sport games, but also online gaming in India. While these guidelines have only been proposed to regulate online fantasy sports, industry players are already asking for similar guidelines for online gaming.
As the online gaming industry grows, more regulations such as this will be required to protect the interests of both the consumers of these games and the operators running them.
With the opportunity of growth in the online gaming industry, there is push towards creating more such businesses in India. Here is a brief outline of the requirements for setting up such a business in India:
Complete details on setting up an online gaming business in India are available here. Read More.