Online gambling: Virtual Shylocks still at large 

While some call for proper rules, others feel regulation is not enough

Published: 23rd October 2021 06:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd October 2021 06:47 AM   |  A+A-

illustration: amit bandre

Express News Service

CHENNAI: While there are several deaths by suicide related to online rummy games being reported, the underlying factor in this issue seems to have remained untouched. The involvement of third-party loan companies that force people to take the extreme step do not surface. These third parties provide loans to players who have an urgent need for money, at exorbitant interest rates.

According to cyber security researcher, Rajashekar Rajaharia, the third-party loan companies are predominantly of Chinese origin. A senior cyber crime official said these companies collaborate with online rummy companies to exploit players. The first step of installation is to sign up, which takes up almost all the personal information, including name, mobile number, e-mail ID, and friends/followers list from social media accounts. This is then shared with the loan apps which are used against the players when they are unable to repay loan, said the official.

“When one defaults in repaying a loan, the companies threaten them and send derogatory messages to their friends saying he/she is a cheat. Such situations lead one to take the extreme step,” he said. The apps also enrich these online games, said Raman Parasuram, founder of Kaimen and Zeus, and a member of Cyber Society of India. “They rely on a threatening mechanism to get back their money, and hence they lend with or without document verification,” he said.

Parasuram added once the companies get permission to access the user’s SMS and contacts, they constantly watch his/her other transactions and keep a tab of their data on the phone. So, it becomes easy to threaten the person. A 25-year-old IT professional from Chennai, who started playing online rummy by his brother’s influence, said, “We don’t know if these loan companies are genuine or not.” He added these companies thrive on people who lose games.

People who lose do not think about the money they lost, but about the way they can get it back. “To get back the lost amount, you need more money. That’s when these companies come into the picture,” the professional added.

After the Madras High Court lifted the ban on online rummy in August this year, the bench had said the State, however, can bring about a new legislation “conforming to the Constitutional principles of propriety”. Talking about regulating these gaming apps, Rajashekar said the State should have a proper set of rules in place and audit these apps regularly.

The Cyber Crime official said these apps should be vetted by the government, and all transactions be made transparent. Rahul Sasi, founder of CloudSEK, said regulating is easier said than done. “Instead of banning, there should be proper regulation,” he said, adding that legalising them in a proper manner like in many other countries is also a better way of handling the issue.



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