Indian Online Gaming Industry Urges NITI Aayog to Extend Universal Regulation Guidelines

The recently published Government “Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India” have met the approval of gaming businesses and fans alike. So much so that gaming industry associations are asking NITI Aayog to extend standard regulations to all online skill games.

Recommendations Need to Be Translated into Nation-Wide Legislation

NITI Aayog, the Government policy think tank, recently published a set of proposed guidelines which could help States and Centre to achieve a much sought and arguably belated set of standards and laws for regulating the online gaming industry. As a matter of fact, the Guiding Principles are focusing on online fantasy sports platforms, rather than having the proclaimed “Universal” coverage. The report has been published for public review and feedback.

While being able to distinguish blackjack side bets from the skill of playing Teen Patti with relatives over Diwali is not targeted by current regulatory proposals or educational programmes, the ambition to achieve a set of national-level regulation standards is what has been appreciated by both online gaming industry professionals and players. The downside to the policy document in question is that it deals in detail with online fantasy sports and eSports platforms, leaving most of the online player base without the necessary legal support.

Just like fantasy sports, India’s online skill gaming industry suffers from fragmented State laws, while the National legislative framework has remained in the 19th Century with the Public Gambling Act. The latter has been repeatedly declared outdated both by State High Courts and the Supreme Court and not adequate to regulate online gaming activity.

The need to regulate the broader skill gaming industry has been championed by the Online Rummy Federation, among others, as an incentive for investors, fans and a source of taxation income for public coffers. Digital industry leaders are now recommending that the NITI Aayog guidelines cover all online games, whether through the proposed self-regulatory body or a national-level legal framework.

Games of skill like blackjack online and all-time favourites like rummy and online poker are left unattended to by most states, while their regulation might act as a further catalyst for the constantly growing online gaming sector where websites like 10Cric has increased in popularity

Professional Sports Continue Without Fans

The insistence on regulation coverage of the fast-growing skill-based game segment is supported by its financial performance and social popularity. Almost 50% of the overall industry revenues come from online social gaming and skill games. Considering that the total size of the skill gaming industry amounts to between 9,000 and 10,000 crore (according to KPMG), the importance of online games and platforms cannot be overlooked, especially after the particular year that fans have had.

Confined to their homes and without live events to attend, many of the fans have had to settle for a “redefined role”, supporting and staying in touch with their favourite teams and personal idols from a distance, mostly with the help of digital means and virtual platforms.

In this context, the desi fantasy sports industry cannot be neglected, as online games continue growing in influence and social importance. They have been one of the defining factors at the base of the incredible media and commercial success of IPL 13. Such trends are explained with the same pragmatic considerations but largely enabled by evolving digital technology, numerous transaction platforms and increasingly accessible hardware and cheap data packages.

What is left to complete the digital revolution which online entertainment has already brought in our hands is a set of precise national standards and regulations for certifying this success in practice. For the benefit of businesses, players and the treasury coffers.