India plans federal oversight of all real-money online games
Real-money online games will be regulated by center government under the new online gaming laws.
India's planned regulation of online gaming will apply to all real-money games after the prime minister's office overruled a proposal to only regulate games of skill and leave out games of chance, according to a government document and other sources.
The long-awaited regulations are seen shaping the tomorrow of India's gaming sector that research firm Redseeer Strategy Consultants estimates will be worth $7 billion by 2026, dominated by real-money games. Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital have in the past few years backed Indian startups Dream11 and Mobile Premier League, popular for fantasy cricket.
An Indian panel that was charged with drafting the regulation in August proposed a new body to pick whether a game involves skill or chance, and then let skill games be governed by planned federal rules that call for registration obligations, know-your-customer norms, and a grievance redress mechanism.
Chance games -- considered similar to gambling, mostly banned across India -- were set to stay under the purview of individual state governments which would be free to regulate them, according to previous reports by Reuters.
However, in an October 26 government meeting, an official from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office opposed such differentiation and called for expanded oversight on all types of games, according to confidential minutes of the gathering reviewed by Reuters.
The minutes quoted the official as saying that it wasn't easy to differentiate games as skill or chance due to the lack of legal clarity and contrasting court decisions, adding "online gaming may be considered as one activity/service with no distinction."
Defining games has been disputable in India. The card game rummy and certain fantasy games are, according to India's Supreme Court, skill-based and legal, for example, while different state courts have held different opinions about games like poker.
Neither Modi's office nor the IT ministry, which is drafting the rules, did respond to a request for comment.
The rules will give the federal administration broader oversight on all types of games while state governments remain empowered to impose outright bans on gambling or games of chance, according to the statements of three people directly involved in the rule-making process, including two government officials in New Delhi, to Reuters.
Drafting the new regulations comes amid escalating concerns that the proliferation of these games, especially among young people, resulted in addiction and financial losses, with some cases of suicide reported.
Modi's administration is still concerned about the potential addiction to such platforms, according to one of the government sources.
The August report of the government panel had proposed that new rules should include so-called "de-addiction measures" like periodic warnings and advisories and fixing deposit and withdrawal limits.