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Online Wars, Gaming vs. Gambling

by Danny White

Policy scenarios for online games like Sicbo Online and fantasy sports have seen recent developments. Some states have been seen to ban online poker and not fantasy sports, while some have banned all online games which involve wagers or stakes. Naturally, this has been a source of discontentment for their respective shareholders in various cases, also warranting claims against such states. On the other hand, video game industrialists have demanded policymakers for online gambling to discontinue using the word “gaming” as these two industries are fundamentally different.

The Two Sides

Jay Sayta, a lawyer, specializing in gambling policies, says, “Classically, gambling means staking something of value [such as real cash] on a game of chance for the possibility of winning something in return.”. As its competition gaming industry says their games do not include the concept of gambling, hence their comparisons are not justified. Lokesh Suji, Director of E-Sports Federation of India, has been highly against comparing popular video games to online gambling software. He has also demanded the removal of the word “gaming” from gambling policies.

Various State’s Laws

Furthermore, Sikkim is the only state that allows online gambling by restricting it to its intranet, preventing outflow across state borders.

Games that supposedly require a certain skill level like poker or rummy have been permitted by the Nagaland government while banning games that identify themselves as gambling or betting games.

Also, offline gambling has been allowed in states like Goa and Sikkim, which regulates policies through state legislation and can be done on places like offshore vessels over river Mandovi and five-star hotels.

Cause for Controversy?

The controversy mostly stems from the lack of national-level control over online gaming or gambling. Currently, states can decide what falls under gambling under their own discretion and ban them accordingly.

Additionally, fantasy sports platforms like My11Circle or Dream11 can funnel real money into games and create opportunities for people to earn real money, called a form of gambling. Sayta demands involve the Centre’s engagement in regulating the “gaming” sector since it operates via the internet, and the internet falls under their discretion. He further mentions that since it is difficult to regulate the internet at the state level with various inter-state trade and commerce aspects involved, there should be an overall framework for the central government’s guidelines. He also says that the government should be transparent on what falls under games of skill or games of stake and make proper regulations for prizes or stake limits for such games.

Injustice towards the gaming industry

After having their name brought up alongside “gambling,” a particular Indian established executive belonging to a multinational gaming firm says, “generalizing the entire industry (of gaming) is doing a disservice to it.”

CEO of Nazara Technologies Ltd says that there should be more understanding when using words like “online gaming” and “online gambling” when creating policies for its regulation. They run an e-sports entity called Godwin Gaming, which aims to educate and raise awareness about the gaming industry among policymakers.