Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) approached the manifesto committees of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, requesting for the inclusion of setting up a central body for regulating online gaming. Calling regulation the need of the hour, AIGF’s CEO Roland Landers said, “If online real money games of skills are regulated, say, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, it will be beneficial for businesses to scale up.”
The not-for-profit organisation deals only with online real money games, such as online fantasy leagues, online poker and competitive eSports games with a pay-to-play model. Following the CS:GO gambling controversy that swept the Western gaming sector in 2016, regulation with respect to gambling games has come under scrutiny. In India, gambling laws fall under the individual jurisdiction of the state. Currently, Goa and Sikkim have laws regulating online real-money gaming.
The AIGF researches trends in the industry and produces reports and studies. It has worked with the Law Commission of India for the 276th Law Commission Report that was released in July 2018. The report recommends regulations in gambling and betting in sports to “effectively curb the menace of black-money generation through illegal gambling.”
In addition, Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member’s bill in Lok Sabha in December 2018. The objective of the Sports (Online Gaming & Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018, is to introduce administration to penalise fraud in sports and fair regulation for online games. Landers said that these regulations gives online gaming an ethical framework to grow.
Until the arrival of centralised and state-based regulations, Landers said that self-regulation is the best course of action. “Our 35-odd members, in the absence of formal regulations, are governed with a certain number of dos and don’ts, in the form of our Online Game of Skill Charters. We can regulate gambling by ensuring that people above the age of 18 play these online games, and by having a time limit,” said Landers.
“We believe that when we have a robust formal central regulation that governs different forms of online gaming, the grey market and its operators will eventually go out of circulation, as it would with any formal industry. We hope we can achieve this within the next 24 months,” he said.