India has the 2nd largest population in the world: 140 crore. India also has the 2nd highest no. of online gamers in the world: 42.5 crore. The potential of this vast market has not eluded the Government of India, which acknowledges the need for regulation and support as the sector navigates the waters of innovation with a keen focus on player safety and responsible gaming behavior.
Yet, the government’s grasp on shaping an ideal regulatory framework for the industry seems to falter. Despite efforts in 2023 to implement fundamental measures, there remains a lack of clarity on the implementation of these guidelines, especially with the stagnation in the Self-Regulatory Body (SRB) approach. The intent to establish a sound regulatory system is evident. The goal is to prevent illegitimate or gambling entities from masquerading as realmoney skill-based games, and to protect players from potential financial ruin, all while considering the sector’s growth opportunities in mind.
India has the opportunity to build a progressive framework by incorporating best practices from around the world and tailoring them to India’s specific needs. It wouldn’t be unprecedented; India has previously shaped policies based on international models, such as the recently introduced Personal Data Protection Bill which was largely inspired by European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which set a benchmark for data protection and privacy laws worldwide.
The UK Model The UK’s model of regulating online gaming is considered one of the most progressive regulatory models worldwide, overseen by UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). India could draw from UK’s clear guidelines for operators and offer robust player protections. For e.g. in UKGC’s License Conditions and Codes of Practice, all operators are mandated to participate in the national online self-exclusion scheme (GAMSTOP) to offer their own self-exclusion options. It enables users to self-exclude themselves from not just one, but all registered online gaming services across the country with a single request. This approach empowers players to manage their gaming habits more effectively while truly promoting responsible gaming behavior.
Malta’s Licensing and Compliance standards The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is known for its comprehensive licensing process, including rigorous compliance checks, and emphasis on player safety and fairness. MGA’s process includes exhaustive background checks of gaming companies, fairness of the games, and the security of online transactions. Companies must also demonstrate their commitment to responsible gaming practices.
While India intended to offer a framework on similar terms, with the Self-Regulatory Bodies, it can consider setting up a centralised regulatory authority with similar compliance processes, ensuring a secure and trustworthy online gaming ecosystem in the country. Only operators who meet strict safety, fairness and responsible gaming standards should be allowed. Singapore’s Integrated Model Singapore’s integrated approach to regulating online gaming, including real money gaming, combines strict regulations with robust enforcement mechanisms.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) plays a crucial role in this regulatory landscape while collaborating with Ministry of Home Affairs to regulate content and ensure social welfare of players. One of the key aspects of their framework is social safeguards, including selfexclusion programs, age restrictions and daily expenditure limits. India could emulate Singapore’s centralized regulatory authority model, and be more involved with the online gaming industry to co-regulate them if a selfregulatory option does not seem to be enough. This centralized authority can ensure that operators comply with the legal requirements designed to protect consumers and promote responsible gaming. Sweden’s Regulations on Advertising Sweden enforces advertising guidelines as part of its licensing conditions for online gaming operators.
These guidelines ensure that advertisements do not misrepresent winning odds and that terms are transparent. India has released multiple such guidelines through MIB and ASCI on maintaining advertising standards in online gaming. However, these are not enforced and hence not legally binding. The government should enforce these guidelines through the means of regulation, mandating these norms of promotions and penalize operators that don’t follow them.
India stands on the brink of establishing itself as a global gaming powerhouse, contingent upon crafting an enabling environment that prioritizes market access, consumer protection and responsible gaming. The crucial element missing currently is a favorable regulatory framework designed to nurture the ecosystem, free from the constraints of ongoing regulatory challenges.
Drawing lessons from global precedents, India is in a unique position to synthesize the most effective aspects of international frameworks – whether it be the UK’s national self-exclusion scheme, Singapore’s integrated and centralized regulatory approach to regulate content and ensure social welfare of its players, or enforcing stringent advertising guidelines like Sweden – and customize these elements to resonate with India’s unique socio-cultural landscape. Once that is established, India could witness unparalleled growth in online gaming and significantly contribute to the Government’s vision of becoming a Viksit Bharat by 2047.
Rajesh Mehta is an international affairs expert focussing on areas like market entry, innovation, and public policy.