The number of gambling and sports fantasy apps in India has skyrocketed over the past few years. Considering that the country is home to one of the biggest sporting leagues in the world – the Indian Premier League – and the wide availability of budget smartphones, investors are always looking for the next big sports betting app or online poker app. It's even reached a point that Indian celebrities have been involved in their marketing.
While there's a boom for such real money apps in the country, the effects on society are adverse. It's not uncommon to read a news article about someone committing suicide because they lost everything on betting or gambling. Additionally, developers who actually create video games find it hard to get investors because of their preference of the quick returns that real money apps bring. There's also the infuriating fact that these gambling and betting apps have co-opted the term "online gaming", and flagrantly use it in all promotional content.
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The good news is that the Indian government's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has finally decided to put regulations in place for these real money apps, however – perhaps due to the nomenclature uses in the promotional content – the draft reveals that these regulations are all-encompassing, clumping gambling and actual gaming together. Naturally alarmed by this, over 40 Indian video game and esports companies have requested the ministry to make a clear regulatory distinction between the two.
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Organised by Chennai-based Outlier Games, the coalition of video game companies seeks a stakeholder meeting with MEITY in the hopes of sharing its insights, creating a clear distinction between online gaming and gambling, and to help form relevant regulations for the industry in India.
"The current draft notification combines “video games” and “online games played for stakes” into the same regulatory purview," says a press release issued by SuperGaming and Outlier Games. "This is a move that risks derailing the extensive and exemplary vision and goals set forth by the Government initiatives at the Central and State level."
"This distinction is so stark, that no country in the world includes revenues from the “real money games played for stakes” industry while preparing market research reports and analyzing data points such as revenue generation, taxes, user base etc." explains the press release, in a bid to demonstrate the difference between the two. Globally the video game and esports industry is valued at 184 billion USD in 2022 and excludes revenue from RMG & Fantasy Sports games played for stakes."
MEITY is the same ministry that banned PUBG, along with 117 other Chinese mobile apps. So it's clearly not opposed to making sweeping decisions which would affect video game devs in a very different way than it would real money games. It's probably with this in mind that the coalition of game devs approached the ministry.
"As India's gamers grow in numbers and evolve in terms of preference, it's crucial that the rules evolve as well," says Roby John, CEO and co-founder of SuperGaming. "We hope to see a clear regulatory distinction between video games and real money gaming to ensure that best in class protections exist for the half a billion or so gamers in India."
The coalition seeks to put forth three primary recommendations – a clear regulatory distinction between “video games” and “online games that are played for stakes”, the formation of an India-centric rating mechanism like the ESRB, and a framework to deal with video game addiction, exposure to in-game purchases, and online harm.