Betting on gaming: India must set up a gaming regulator

The gaming industry does not need bans, it needs legislation.

Betting on gaming: India must set up a gaming regulator
The fantasy sports industry currently employs 3,000-3,400 people directly and supports. (Representational image: Reuters)

The recent IPL saw a massive rise in gamification of cricket through mobile applications. Repeated advertisements, by cricketing legends and veterans, have promoted online gaming platforms beyond the traditional gaming apps.

However, betting on virtual games is a new trend, and has picked up pace in India with millions getting addicted to online gaming during the lockdown.

The fantasy sports industry has become the new source of addiction for adolescents with apps promising lakhs of rupees as rewards. Since there is no regulator in India, such applications defy the global laws pertaining to the minimum age for subscription.

Setting up casinos in India requires a licence and betting on cricket matches is against law; however, virtual betting is attracting getting private equity investments in India.

India, currently, has no legislation to control the online betting and gaming industry. However, with rapid investments in online gaming, especially fantasy sports, legislation is direly needed.

Today, adolescents have direct access to mobile phones; hence, many of them get introduced to fantasy sports via friends in schools, colleges and via advertisements on television, the internet. Many end up spending thousands and lakhs of rupees on fantasy sports.

Recent trends show a rapid increase in crime due to the use of the internet, especially fantasy sports.

State governments of four states in India have decided to ban fantasy sports mobile application in their states which has led to owners of these businesses filing a PIL in court to contest such bans.

But bans, owing to a lack of regulation, may end up killing the industry, which will have an impact on jobs and investment. Hence, legislation and transparent policies to manage the sector must be implemented.

Covid-19 resultant lockdown has increased the penetration of virtual gaming platforms in India’s hinterland. Besides, the ban of 200 plus Chinese application contributed further shift in trends to virtual fantasy sports.

While outdoor sports like cricket, football will pick up pace next year, limited seating arrangements and virtual spectator focus by organisers will further contribute to an increase in demand for virtual sports.

In a country like India, there is a dire need to set up a gaming regulator to monitor, manage and help the industry. Countries such as United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have clearly defined legislation for the gaming industry, especially fantasy sports, which allows investments to thrive in these sectors and create jobs while ensuring that user safety is given utmost priority. Government of these countries not only impose hefty fine and penalty on companies but also encourage them to take insurance policies and follow strong data protection guidelines to ensure user privacy.

Author is founder, India Future Foundation. Views are personal

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First published on: 21-12-2020 at 02:30 IST