Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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India’s Online Gaming Grows but Harm Sparks Concerns

Gaming harm is on the rise in India as online gaming becomes more and more popular, BBC reported. While lawmakers argue whether real money games (RMG) constitute gambling or not, citizens continue to fall victim to the industry.

Many Indians Are Addicted to RMGs

The report tells the story of Faisal Maqbool – a 31-years-old former addict. Maqbool lost around $5,000 to an online card game. The man, a project coordinator for a construction firm, would sometimes spend as much as 70% of his salary to play.

Reminiscing about his past experiences, the ex-addict said that it is easy to become an addict. Most people would begin by betting 500-1,000 rupees ($6.5-13) but would soon become “overpowered by greed” and start playing big. Maqbool said he would often try to win his wagers back, which, unfortunately, resulted in more losses.

Gambling is illegal in India but the games Maqbool played are classified as real money games. As such, they are not considered “gambling.” According to the All India Gaming Federation, online skill gaming is a type of entertainment where skill is more important than chance. A spokesperson said that the money people invest is not really a wager but more of an “entry fee.” Therefore, the authority does not consider RMGs as gambling although many argue that it should.

The Industry Is Booming, Laws Are Yet to Be Polished

The problem is that Indian states have a degree of independence when it comes to gambling laws. That prevents the federal government from imposing a nationwide RMG ban. Despite that, there have been numerous efforts to ban these games. Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, Tamil Nadu’s chief minister, is one of the biggest opponents of wagering games. He wants to put a stop to RMGs and has appealed for a ban several times.

Siddhartha Iyer, a lawyer for India’s Supreme Court, also agrees that RMGs need to come to an end.

A game of skill has to be reserved for something of great athletic ability or great mental ability which requires years of training, practice and perseverance.

Siddhartha Iyer, lawyer, India Supreme Court

He recognizes that many of the RMGs have self-regulation tools but added that this isn’t something reliable in an industry that “exploits its users.” Iyer also said that it is difficult to say who will impose gambling laws on the internet if the government does end up banning RMGs.

Despite the harm caused by RMGs, the All India Gaming Federation argues that the industry has benefits as well. The Federation pointed out that the online gaming sector earns about $1 billion a year. Because of this, imposing a tax would be much more beneficial to the country than banning RMGs. Moreover, the industry can create up to 50,000 more jobs by the end of 2025. This means more jobs for IT specialists, customers support workers and game developers.

The Indian gaming industry grows by an estimated 30% a year. Yet, the laws that govern it are far from perfect.

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