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IndiaTech wants national guidelines for the regulation of online gaming

The industry body’s proposal comes at a time when online gaming and its addictive nature is drawing flak in India.

The Government of India should frame online gaming guidelines at the national level which can be followed by the states, according to a letter written by IndiaTech to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), as seen by MediaNama. IndiaTech is an industry association representing India’s consumer internet startups, unicorns, and investors, according to its website. Some of its notable members include Ola, MakeMyTrip, Dream11, and MPL.

The association affirmed that certain online games have an element of skill despite the involvement of money, distinguishing them from betting and gambling.

“The mere involvement of money does not make any game into an addictive or gambling genre,” the letter addressed to IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw read.

It is essential to regulate the sector as online gaming has grown tremendously in the last two years and contributes significantly in terms of employment, FDI, GST/ taxes, etc. including support to ancillary industries like marketing.

Guiding principles proposed by IndiaTech

The letter defined OSCGS as games/sports that are always in a multi-player format using the internet for the purpose of entertainment. They are based on skills predominantly and casual in nature, it said.

The association called for the government to refer to the following principles while drafting legislation for online gaming:

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  1. Derivatives of real-world games and recognised/unrecognised sports, and are played with real players.
  2. Played for recreation and not as a profession or to earn a livelihood. These games are played as entertainment, to release stress and for social interaction.
  3. Run for short intervals lasting approximately 5-10 minutes for each game session making them non-addictive in nature.
  4. Involve meagre monetary contributions which do not amount to gambling or betting.
  5. Exist on digital platforms that have reasonable control over an individual’s gaming accounts, specifically around daily/ weekly game time limits, deposit limit and withdrawal limit.
  6. Probability of return is dependent on the skill being exhibited by a player.
  7. Requires two or even multiple real players together in real time, depending on the format.
  8. Real players are paired with other players on a real-time basis, depending on when they initiate the game play.
  9. Eight guiding principles by NITI Aayog may be considered for further deliberations and notifications by the Centre and States with regards to online fantasy sports.

Code for Responsible Gaming

The letter also contained a proposal to draft the ‘Code for Responsible Gaming’ in a collaboration between industry and government. IndiaTech wrote that a ban is never a viable solution and instead, principles of responsible gaming must be standardised in a document to support compliance to practical and legitimate legislative demands.

The code should explore:

  • Policies that govern age/genre-based classifications
  • Artificial Intelligence-based interventions to monitor and reduce potential addictions and cut-offs for money spends and wins
  • Policy frameworks for bots to be fair to players, cultural sensitivities, etc.
  • Creation of a safe user environment that adheres to privacy norms and safeguards against:
    • Cyberbullying
    • Online predators
    • Malware
    • Cyber frauds
  • Standards similar to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for age-restricted content so that users can make informed choices,
  • Mandatory requirement of a valid bank account for gaming platforms that deal with money.
  • Age criteria to be 18 years or above.

Backlash against online gaming

The recommendations by IndiaTech come at a time when there has been renewed focus on the popularity of online gaming among users and its addictive nature.

Recently, the Indian government recommended parents use spyware and internet gateway applications that can monitor content on the internet in a bid to curb excessive online gaming, according to an advisory released by the Ministry of Education.

The Karnataka government also amended the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, outlawing betting and gambling even when games of skill are concerned, triggering legal challenges in the Karnataka High Court. The state government argued in Court that its new law on online gaming does not ban online “games of chance or skill” but steers people away from gambling money on an uncertain event.

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Written By

I cover several beats such as crypto, telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I will be loitering at my local theatre and consuming movies by the dozen when I am off work.

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

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