At the time when youngsters are busy playing mobile games as well as PlayStation and online games are seeing increased investment interest, senior Congress leader and a Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor, has sought to regulate the sector.
Introducing a private member’s bill in the Lok Sabha, Tharoor said that the largely unorganised gaming sector needs a regulatory mechanism. The bill was introduced “to establish an effective regime to maintain the integrity of Sports in India by preventing and penalizing Sports Fraud, regulation of Online Sports Gaming; and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
Tharoor also explained the reason of bringing this Bill to the Parliament saying that, “The need of the hour is a comprehensive regulatory framework, overseen by a competent regulatory body, to check the flow of black money in online sports gaming, and to curb any illegal activities in connection with it.”
The need of the hour, as Tharoor refers to, can be seen with the projections that the online gaming industry in India is estimated to be worth over $360 Mn at present and is poised to grow to $1 Bn by 2021. India reportedly accounts for around 13% of the world’s online mobile gaming population and ranks among the top five countries in the world for online and mobile gaming.
Tharoor’s bill seeks to regulate online sports gaming, which includes games involving the prediction of the results of a sporting event and placing a bet on the outcome, in part or in whole, by means of a telecommunication device. It will also include fantasy gaming.
The Bill expressly discusses the definition of a sports fraud for a national sports event as well as an international sports event and proposed imprisonment and fine as punishment, depending on the nature of fraud.
Tharoor, through The Sports (Online Gaming And Prevention Of Fraud) Bill, 2018 also suggested constituting a commission, to be known as the Online Sports Gaming Commission, to exercise the powers conferred upon, and to perform the functions assigned to it, under the draft Act.
The role of the commission will be to overlook the working of online gaming websites, suggest measures to curb illegal online sports gaming, track online sports gaming among other matters referred by the government.
One of the key proposals in the Bill is that no person can operate an Online Gaming Server or an Online Gaming Website without a license. Also, the commission may request the police to investigate any acts of violations of the sections under the Act.
Tharoor added, “Apart from the check on criminal activities, the regulation of online sports gaming may encourage investment in the sector, which in turn can lead to technological advancements as well as revenue and employment generation.”
Players Of Online Gaming Industry In India
India has been changing the way it plays with more than 500 Mn internet users in the country, the change has become significant and bigger. At present, about 80% of the mobile gaming population comprising 18- to 35-year-olds, with the older population increasingly getting on to games like Ludo King, Subway Surfer, Candy Crush among others.
Newzoo, a gaming data forecast company said in 2018, “There are more than 2.3 Bn active gamers in the world this year, of which 46%, or 1.1 Bn, spend money on games. The games market will reach $137.9 Bn in 2018, with digital revenues accounting for 91% of the market, or $125.3 Bn. For the first time, mobile gaming will contribute more than half of all revenues, with smartphone and tablet gaming growing +25.5% year on year to $70.3 Bn.”
Talking about the introduction of Sports Bill, Navkiran Singh, founder and CEO, Baazi Games told Inc42, “Online gaming industry in India is estimated to be worth over $360 Mn at present. Being a part of this booming industry. We are in favour of the regulatory body as the proliferation of sports leagues and the development of the sports ecosystem(online gaming) in India increased frauds.”
Earlier, reports stated that considering the huge potential of the country’s gaming market, Paytm-Alibaba and Tencent are actively exploring the space, which is packed with homegrown as well as international players.
The country’s gaming ecosystem has nurtured the growth of startups like Sachin Tendulkar-backed virtual reality gaming and entertainment company Smaaash; Nazara, the company looking for IPO with several global acquisitions; Tencent-backed fantasy gaming company Dream11; Loco, Passion Gaming, PlaySimple, Flixy Games, GameXS, RedMonsterGames, and more.
A Google KPMG study has said that the gaming industry in India is expected to touch $1.3 Bn by 2022, adding more than 190 Mn gamers at the same time. With growing internet accessibility in urban as well as rural India, the Bill introduced by Tharoor shows the increasing acceptance of the government towards changing scenarios because of digital touch across industries.