Revolutionary National Online Gaming Regulation Bill Tabled at the Lok Sabha
India may soon bid farewell to its archaic Victorian-era legislation on gaming and the ambiguous distinction between games of skill and games of chance. On April 1, the Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill, 2022, was proposed at the Lok Sabha by adv. Dean Kuriakose, Member of Parliament, and if the political parties find it fit to implement it, India will step into a new era of modern regulation over all types of real money gaming.
The still active Public Gambling Act of 1867 dating back from the colonial period focuses on preventing gambling and betting with physical cash in physical gaming houses, making a distinction between chance- and skill based games and exempting the latter from its ambit. This century-and-a-half old bill not only is worthless in cyberspace, but the chance vs skill distinction leaves too much room for ambiguity and interpretation, especially when it has to measure all the new genres of gaming in the present-day online realm.
The newly proposed bill seeks to regulate not only the widely perceived as a game of chance online roulette in India, but all games that have a real money element present, including PUBG, Fortnite, Candy Crush and all the rest.
The Online Gaming Regulation Act envisages the creation of an Online Gaming Commission by the Central Government which will be mandated to elaborate the rules and procedures under which the Indian gaming ecosystem will function and to oversee all gaming activities. The Commission will also be empowered to issue, suspend and revoke licences for gaming websites and servers, to collect fees, and suggest appropriate measures to curb illegal online gaming.
The Purposes of Regulation
“At the end of the day, regulations are there to protect people, and it’s proven that countries that regulate gambling aren’t only able to ensure that players are using a safe product but are also ensuring that licensed operators are contributing to the welfare of the country in the means of tax and licensing fees,” Felicia Wijkander, Chief Editor at the biggest Indian casino comparison platform SevenJackpots sums up the purposes behind the proposed regulation.
The proposed national-level bill runs in the opposite direction of the state-level blanket bans that were so fashionable in India until just a few months ago. Without bothering to discuss the unconstitutional aspect of such bans, as several of them were already struck down by high court judgements, blanket bans are as useful as gates in an open field. If a person wishes, say, to play blackjack online, they are not going to be stopped by an officialized ban, and in many cases it won’t even be necessary to use a proxy, VPN or cryptocurrency to play – after all it’s the free internet we’re speaking about.
Player Protection Needs More
The Online Gaming Regulation Bill tabled in parliament, if adopted in its current form, will be indeed a revolutionary step towards protecting Indian players and ensuring a safe gaming environment for them. The Central Online Gaming Commission, when established, will be in the position to create a number of rules focused on player protection, but the mandatory framework provided by the Bill should have stipulated much more in this regard.
“The current bill is also missing a bunch of player protection aspects. There is no mention of KYC (Know Your Customer) or SOI (Source Of Income) processes, data protection, or responsible gambling practices. All aspects that we believe should come first when regulating a market,” says Felicia Wijkander.
It would have been wise if the author of the act, M.P. adv. Dean Kuriakose, had consulted with experts from the industry like Felicia Wijkander or others to be able to propose a more robust and working solution in favor of the people to the Lok Sabha.
“Even an aam aadmi person like myself, I have personal experience working with online gambling operators launching in regulated markets such as New Jersey (USA), Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and the UK, and not only have I witnessed the perks of these regulations, I’ve also seen what hasn’t worked,” Felicia points out her professional expertise which is right on target.