In an industry which is acutely suffering from one-upmanship due to selfish business interests and lack of a united front, the central government, in a welcome move, is planning to set up a high-level inter-ministerial taskforce to bring some order in the online gaming sector. (More Sports News)
The fast-growing online gaming sector has caught the imagination of the public and the Union government for both good and bad reasons.
While suicides and deaths due to over-indulgence in gambling activities have made state governments wary, industry bodies like FICCI and CII say the online gaming sector will scale considerable heights but only if it is managed in a fair manner and the laws are unambiguous.
The present day media and entertainment world is all about OTT (digital streaming), edu-tech, fin-tech and gaming companies. If the Indian Premier League, the world's largest T20 cricket tournament is taken as an example, it's ecosystem is swamped by Indian edu-tech, fin-tech, online gaming and offshore betting companies.
No matter what the Courts say, there is a serious element of doubt in public mind over 'skill' and 'chance' based games. Several state governments like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have challenged High Court orders in favour of gaming companies. These cases are pending in Supreme Court.
According to leaders, cutting across political lines, online games involving money are equated with gambling/betting and therefore seen as a social evil. Deaths by suicide only add fuel to fire.
Recently, the government of Rajasthan brought out a draft Bill on online gaming which is heavily skewed towards fantasy sports. The All India Gaming Federation, the nodal body representing major gaming operators, is submitting a report on Friday that will ask for a 'correction' in the draft Bill.
"It must be balanced and help all skill gaming companies to grow their business and prosper. In its current state, the draft is partisan towards fantasy sports and that is unfair to other games. We will expect a balanced approach," said Roland Landers, the CEO of AIGF.
At a time when states are trying to regulate the online gaming sector, the Centre's move to form a panel and introduce some method in the madness has soothed the frayed nerves of top operators.
"This is a great move, we have high hopes that the inter-ministerial panel will bring clarity for the industry, which will lead to growth," said MPL, the kit sponsors of the Indian cricket team and a big BCCI ally.
The taskforce will include the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and seven other agencies including the NITI Aayog, ministries of information and broadcasting, sports, Home, revenue and industries. It is still not clear who will 'captain' this panel.
Landers points out that when the Centre is taking interest in regulating the online gaming sector, states like Rajasthan mulling their own strategies may seem like a 'conflict.'
"There is a dire need for a comprehensive national policy and the draft bill proposed by the Rajasthan government seems out of place given the set up of the inter-ministerial task force at the Centre for online skill gaming," added Landers.