Online platforms and social media play an important role in our daily lives, and with Covid-19, people being indoors have been hooked to their screens for education and entertainment, both. During this period, online gaming has been the biggest beneficiary and this industry has grown phenomenally thanks to lack to regulation. It is glaring that gambling has gained ground in the name of gaming, online!
Understanding the difference
Gaming refers to playing electronic games through mobiles, consoles, computers, etc. On the other hand, gambling refers to playing “games of chance” for money/bet.
Esports is when many players come together to play a game professionally and under strict regulation.
Considering a game where the Real money and “Luck” is used to “Select” a Player based on how “they” play is not E-sports. Considering them would take a toll on the gaming industry. And this is just one example of how “chance-based” games are being pushed into “E-Sports”, which changes the whole definition of gambling and gaming.
“Luck and not skill or competence”
Choosing a player based on their “Luck” and not “Competence” is something you’d go by chance, and with games like Teen Patti, Poker, it goes without saying that apart from just chance, it can also be rigged very easily. There’s no way to ensure that we’re not up against a highly advanced AI or a human. It makes it impossible for newcomers and the pros to know who they’re against and what they’re in for.
Betting has its societal risks
Apart from just financial issues, it also raises concern with ethics, there’s no way to verify one’s age, and this, in turn, leads to children putting in significant sums of money to gamble and then lose it, which leads to great debts at a young age, and family concerns. People often can’t repay their debts, and this tends to increase crime and suicides.
Statistically speaking, there are over 1,500 people concurrently on MPL Poker. Considering the minimum buy-in of Rs 5, there is a “minimum” of Rs 7,500 on the line at a single second. If that is unregulated and unfair, that could lead to a loss running into lakhs for the industry.
Globally, (gambling is) banned. Welcome to India.
The United States has strong legislation to protect citizens and residents from the perils of online gambling. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits gambling businesses from “knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law,” thereby effectively banning all unregulated gambling sites. Similarly, Singapore has enacted Common Gaming Houses Act and Remote Gambling Act. These acts make online gambling legal only if it is done through an exempt operator.
Government/Regulators need to wake up
The complete “Real Money Gaming” is currently under a regulatory grey area where it puts the Indian users and so “gamers” at risk of losing their properties and assets to a probable bot that works on advanced algorithms and Machine Learning. The last law for gambling was established in 1867, and it’s high time that the government changed it and made clear distinctions between gaming and gambling.
What needs to be done is to have regulation and an oversight mechanism over the whole RMG industry and its algorithms and manipulative practices, and differentiate between gambling and gaming. Not doing so may increase the number of crimes and risk the upcoming gaming industry in India, which is estimated to be worth Rs 143 million by 2023.
If regulated and checked by an authority, the system could help the industry grow steadily and with no ethical and moral issues.
There is a critical need for legislation to bring online gambling under adequate and effective government supervision. Real money gaming has to be treated as gambling, with the online gambling platforms effectively scrutinized under applicable regulatory standards. Further, such platforms need to be brought under taxation to ensure the government can create support programmes for those affected by the ills of problem gambling.
Let’s be clear, if gambling becomes a game, playing will become betting, and sports will become gambling. In such a scenario, crimes are bound to increase. Time for action.
Reyansh Gupta is the CTO of an eSport company and interning with the Gaming Guru, Vishal Gondal. Views are personal. He tweets @happygupta