Legal and gambling experts join the discussion on the proposed Online Gaming Bill. While it has the merit of moving the matter out of regulatory stagnation, the Bill is not progressive or clear enough, they insist.
Lawyers Stress the Importance of Youth Protection and Problem Gambling
Online gaming has become a part of our lives through mobile phones and fast internet, especially in the past couple of years. Given the size and growth potential of the gaming industry in India, law practitioners feel that laws governing the market need to be more rigorous, specific, and forward-looking, above all.
The fragmented (and grossly outdated) legal framework on the matter is required to protect players’ safety and privacy without stifling the economic segment. The Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill 2022 was filed in the Lok Sabha in April, providing a fresh impulse to the efforts of industry advocates and consumer groups to establish order in India’s chaotic yet highly competitive online gaming market.
The biggest shortcomings regard the lack of separation between games of chance – like online casino games – from those of skill or mere casual fun. Real-money features do not mean that any game can be qualified as gambling, with fantasy leagues and in-app casual purchases as prime examples.
The Bill should regulate real-money online games as a priority, legal experts insist. A national Gambling Commission is a good start but its jurisdiction scope and tasks are not clarified. Currently, there are no rules for a licensing policy, leaving the real-money gaming market in the hands of illegitimate offshore operators yet again.
An effective Bill should also address sensitive aspects adequately and transparently. These include everything that directly affects desi players – privacy norms, Know-Your-Customer (KYC) protocols, and a range of tools addressing problem gaming and underage gambling. There are digital solutions that make all of these features manageable and user-friendly – like Aadhaar card access or automatic time and spending limits.
The new Bill also strangely omits questions like data protection and grievance redressal procedures, leaving gaming fans exposed and a range of societal risks unmitigated.
Gambling Experts Speak Out
The new Bill has the merit, it seems, of stimulating the public debate. Gambling experts largely agree that the proposed legislation is far from flawless, as explained by SevenJackpot’s Chief Editor Felicia Wijkander in a recent opinion piece.
Good practices from mature markets suggest that a strict licensing system obliges operators to promote responsible gambling, data protection and even marketing standards. However, these do not come automatically with legalized real-money gaming. Dedicated national rules can stipulate criteria, and requirements and indicate authorities responsible for monitoring and sanctions, where necessary.
While online gambling remains a State prerogative, norms and standards promoted by the Centre can raise the bar for legitimate desi companies and keep out unfair competition. Establishing a gaming license regime has proven way more efficient than heavy-handed bans and fines to casual gamers.
Such a balanced approach is already followed by states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and West Bengal, analysts point out, but it needs to be brought onto the national stage. This is the proper way of protecting consumers and giving the industry a fair shot at becoming a global player.