When it comes to online gambling, Indians are game for it, though government rules remain unclear to this day. This despite the lingering ambiguities surrounding one of India’s favorite pastime activities, forcing not only operators but also gamers through a maze of vague regulations and persistent but unconstitutional law enforcement with seemingly no end in sight.
Self-regulating bodies are indeed toothless tigers
There have been many attempts to control the burgeoning online gambling industry, especially with more and more people choosing to play their favorite leisure game, online slot machines. Yet none of these efforts to establish a regulatory mechanism have materialized. A good example is the Sports (Online Gambling and Fraud Prevention) Bill 2018 which was introduced in Lok Sabha in December 2018.
The purpose of the Sports Bill was to establish a regulatory mechanism for the online gambling industry in India while preventing and penalizing sports fraud. Ambuj Sonal and Subham Biswal noted in their article published on Mondaq that the bill has already lapsed, but ambiguities regarding the legal framework for online gambling persist.
The lack of a clear regulatory landscape has prompted industry players to self-regulate, or at least attempt to control their operations on their own and to the best of their abilities. The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) are self-regulatory bodies with charters that govern their members. These charters go a long way to streamlining the governance of online gaming platforms, but they’re actually toothless tigers in the face of law enforcement, especially since the rules only apply to their members.
A clear regulatory framework is the way out for India’s online gambling industry
But what is the way out for India’s online gaming industry? Unlike the lottery in India, which enjoys huge popularity and acceptance among both players and state governments, other online gambling verticals operate in a muddy regulatory landscape, at least until now. until politicians make up their minds on how to regulate the industry.
Clearly, the solution is necessary legislation that will “codify and provide a strict regulatory framework to streamline the conduct of platforms in the online gaming sector,” according to Sonal and Biswal. An effective regulatory framework will also ensure that issues such as licensing, player data protection, geographic restrictions and exclusions, problem gambling and security are addressed.
India will benefit greatly by removing a page – or several pages – from the game manuals of established game markets like Sweden, Denmark, Italy, UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain , France and the United States, among the many mature markets today. These governments, according to ENV Media’s report on Offshore Gambling Licensing, are putting more emphasis on consumer protection while promoting responsible gambling – a win for all parties involved.
For India, ENV Media analysts said policymakers need to consider several key aspects, including that operators should be mandated to pay state taxes and abide by local laws; operators must be able to self-regulate, in addition to adhering to government regulations; and safety nets must be included, especially with the rise of digital tools. The central rule should also allow companies to practice responsible marketing by making honest advertising a prerequisite for obtaining a business license, and guarantee the protection of minors through restrictions and sensitization.
“In a country where illegal betting and gambling is rampant (estimated at over $100 billion a year), criminal activity has had a chance to thrive and continues to drain the resources public and law enforcement efforts Emerging markets (India in particular, but not only) will benefit from the creation of their own central regulatory framework, gambling oversight body and regulation on consumer data protection,” according to the ENV Media report.