A virtual roulette game online is not the same as an illegal gaming house – times have changed yet some laws remain rooted in the 19th Century. State courts have started pointing out the need to regulate online gaming in the country once and for all.
Online Gaming Growth Remains Unchecked in India
Over the course of a particular year, quite a few businesses in Bharat suffered, some were even forced to close. On the other hand, many of those relying on stay-at-home activities and consumption patterns, ultimately had a rare chance to claim their place in the sun or increase their visibility.
The online skill gaming industry in India was already experiencing a growth in importance, when Covid-19 related physical and social distancing restrictions were imposed on its existing and huge potential user base. Stimulated by a constantly improving digital infrastructure, numerous digital payment alternatives and cheap data packages, countless experienced gamers and absolute newbies reached out to virtual versions of their favourite pastimes with family and friends.
In a day and age when practically every desi netizen – urban or rural – owns a smartphone, the lack of adequate regulation for a popular form of online entertainment is astounding. Recently, the Gujarat High Court called attention to the fact that contemporary online gaming was by no means regulated by the 1867 Public Gambling Act and does not fall under the definition of a “public gaming house” which was prevalent at the time.
Such a stance makes all online gambling practically and explicitly unregulated, allowing Indian players to play roulette online or other games of skill and chance over the internet at offshore gaming websites such as 10Cric Casino. While games of skill are largely legal in most States, online gaming genres include fantasy sports, rummy and poker, among others, and is gaining prominence while being left neglected by Centre and many State administrations.
While the population remains glued to a game of Teen Patti or a roulette game online, the Government neglects the opportunities that online gaming taxation and healthy systematic regulation might bring to the nation.
Investors and Consumers Wait on Regulatory Framework
While the possibility to play roulette online or share an afternoon of Andar Bahar with one’s cousins is much more a social recreation rather than a competitive or intellectual pursuit, it is undoubted that online gaming is maturing as an industrial and social phenomenon. Early in 2020 Mukesh Ambani predicted that gaming will outgrow “music, movies and television shows put together”. For the past few years, notable global investment funds and tech giants have been flocking to India’s vast and young user markets and appreciating its fertile and innovative business climate.
Even as State and Central government authorities and courts have taken notice of the impact the online gaming industry has on the economy and social relations, the lack of regulation has been holding back its potential and discouraging consistent investment in the sector. Formally unregulated in most Indian states, online games have been approached differently in hard-line states like Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu, compared to potentially permissive administrations in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
Ever since Courts have pitched in, advising governments to consider how to regulate the online gaming industry – possibly ensure public profits and investor confidence – public interest in the issue has been higher than ever. In the past, India’s Supreme Court has ruled that such online platforms are not to be considered gambling and offering games of skill is “protected under freedom of business guarantees under the Indian Constitution”. But with a lack of a legislative distinction between online poker, fantasy sports or social gaming – and in the absence of Central legislation initiative – Indian gaming companies might just keep missing important market opportunities to their offshore global competitors, for the time being.
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