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What the New Gaming Bill will Do to Prevent Gambling on Credit

By The Assam Tribune
What the New Gaming Bill will Do to Prevent Gambling on Credit

Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill Proposed in Parliament

On April 1, the Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill, 2022, was proposed in the Lok Sabha by adv. Dean Kuriakose, a member of parliament from the Indian National Congress representing the state of Kerala.

The tabled Bill is quite progressive as it envisaged the abolishment of the century-and-a-half old ambiguous and blurry distinction between 'games of skill' and 'games of chance' which was introduced by the Victorian-era Public Gaming Act of 1867 and has been bringing a lot of work for the judicial system ever since.

A unified national-wide licensing regime over all types of digital gaming in India, together with a central regulator and license-issuing authority in the face of the Online Gaming Commission which is to be established by the Union Government, are envisaged by the 2022 Bill.

The regulator will have vast powers to oversee the functioning of India's online gaming ecosystem and to curb illegal gaming in the country. Most importantly, the Commission will be mandated to frame the rules pertaining to the licensing process, the applicable fees, the conditions and restrictions for operation of gaming websites and servers, and various other matters which may be required or prescribed.

The Strive for a Safe Online Gaming Environment

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the proposed Bill discloses that "India has around 420 million active online gamers and the industry is slated to grow to $5 billion by 2025" and that "the internet is rapidly spreading to new areas in rural India". In this context, and considering that long hours of gaming "can impair normal socialisation, can cause physical and mental harm and even monetary loss", and also other negative effects such as addictions, the Bill's purpose is explained as a measure to ensure a safe gaming environment in India.

"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," as commented by Felicia Wijkander, Chief Editor at SevenJackpots, India's largest casino comparison platform.

Credit and Age Restrictions Expressly Mentioned

As per the proposed Online Gaming Bill, besides taking into consideration the negative societal effects of gaming, "the rules and regulations must also keep up with the times, and the Online gaming commission will be in a position to regulate the industry by setting standards accordingly." Nevertheless, the Bill takes care to expressly mention two areas where specific conditions and restrictions are needed: credit and age.

Article 18(2)(iii) provides that the rules elaborated by the Commission in consultation with the Central Government may deal with "the restrictions or conditions with regard to the age or other conditions of the persons who may be employed for Online Gaming or may be permitted to play such games online or otherwise take part in the organization or exhibition of such games".

Further down, Article 18(2)(vi) envisages that the central gaming regulator may formulate rules pertaining to "the restrictions or conditions with regard to providing credit facilities by the Licensee to participants of Online Gaming."

Will Restrictions on Credit Facilities Provision by Licensees Be Enough?

One of the major risks associated with online gaming is the danger of going into financial ruin caused by addictive or at least long-time playing. Wagering with modest amounts of one's own money can rarely bring a problem, but gambling with larger funds on credit can lead to a spiraling debt situation with all its due consequences. Therefore, expressly mentioning restrictions on gaming on credit by the proposed Bill is undoubtedly sensible, but is the limited scope of the corresponding article to credit facilities provided by licensees enough to minimize the risk?

Looking at the established practice of gambling and betting regulations around the world, we see that a number of jurisdictions, including Sweden, the UK and others, have implemented a broader ban on all gaming on credit or the use of credit cards for making deposits on gaming platforms.

The Indian Online Gaming Commission, if and when it is created, should make a careful consideration of the matter and possibly elaborate and implement rules for full restriction on gambling on credit in order to ensure a truly safe gaming environment for Indians.

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