Sports betting and online gaming in India: Ongoing efforts towards regulation

By christopher heyes

UKIBC has long been calling for uniform and predictable Central Government-led regulatory approach in the area of online gaming and betting. It was one of our key recommendations in our Gaming for Growth report last year. We were therefore delighted with the announcement that the Government of India took steps in that direction for legalisation and regulation of online gaming and that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had been tasked with leading on it through an amendment to the Government’s Allocation of Business Rules.

The initial policy framework for amending the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 showed good progress but still left a number of questions unanswered which we addressed in our submission to MeitY, such as ensuring that all aspects of online gaming were covered in the policy. This would remove the issue of clarity on the legal definitions of chance and skill which has been challenged over the years through various court Rulings in India.

We also proposed that self-regulatory organisations (SROs) are truly independent and work within an accountability-based framework and that the policy needed to be flexible enough to keep up with new products and developments in the sector, given the fast-moving pace of the online gaming and sports betting sector.

Now that the amended Rules have been notified, there are still a few elements that we continue to seek clarification on, including distinctions between depositing and wagering as there is the possibility of misuse – is depositing on a single over or a single inning in fantasy cricket not wagering for example? How would SRBs look at horse racing – which is licenced in many states already and has already been classified a game of skill by the Supreme Court of India? How can wagering online on this be allowed on this but not on the outcome of an IPL or premier league game?

We are also following the impending creation of the first few Self Regulating Organisations (SROs) closely. I am keen to see that they are independent of any membership organisation and more importantly have the powers to ensure the safety of players which must be at the heart of any policy. As these will take some time to establish, the Government of India has now confirmed that it will define permissible online games.

Considering SROs are independent of government, my belief is still that they won’t have these powers and therefore ultimately there is a critical imperative for India to consider a single gaming commission similar to other jurisdictions across the world that is arm’s length from government, can work with industry but has the power to enforce penalties. This is not just our view but the view of a number of Indian stakeholders working in this sector.

The UKIBC will continue to push for these clarifications and have open discussions on global best practice in this area to help support the Indian Governments aspiration to be a global leader in online gaming.

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