In a welcome move to bring legislation to regulate online skill-based games, the Rajasthan government released the Rajasthan Virtual Online Sports (Regulation) Bill 2022 for public comment. The draft law seeks to regulate fantasy sports and esports and omits skill games like rummy, poker and ludo.
CM Gehlot announced the plans to enact a law during the budget speech earlier this year. The rationale behind excluding poker, rummy and casual games is not clear. Poker and rummy are alleged to be the cause of a number of suicides in recent times.
Controversially, the day-to-day administration and regulation under the enactment is delegated to a private self-regulatory organisation recognised by a gaming commission. The gaming commission is headed by a retired High Court judge and comprises a member with experience in sports federations and a retired government servant.
The country has a number of self-regulatory bodies with AIGF and FIFS among the prominent ones. FIFS, founded by India’s fantasy sports unicorn Dream11, recently has seen three high-profile exits by ‘platinum’ members MPL, My11Circle and MyTeam11.
“The draft Rajasthan Virtual Online Sports (Regulation) Bill, 2022 leaves a lot to be desired. It is unclear why the state government has decided to regulate only fantasy sports and esports while leaving out other skill-based games like rummy, poker etc,” points out tech and gaming lawyer Jay Sayta. AIGF has around 60 members with most of them operating multi-gaming platforms.
eSports are now a medal event in the Asian Games. India has selected a contingent of 18 members to represent the country in 8 medal events. According to a report on Outlook, Rajasthan has one of the highest concentrations (15-20 per cent) of the fantasy sports business.
The Rajasthan High Court in July 2021 dismissed a plea seeking a ban on providing or playing online fantasy games in the State after noting that such a direction would contradict Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Satish Kumar then observed, “We are, therefore, of the view that offering of online fantasy sports in accordance with the Charter of the FIFS has already been judicially recognized as a business and consequently, entitled to protection under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India and the prayer seeking directions to the State Government to prohibit the same would be opposed to Article 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.” Rajasthan High Court has dismissed a similar petition in 2020.
The state has seen gaming addiction-related suicides in the past few months. Earlier, the Rajasthan government issued an advisory for parents and teachers suggesting measures to safeguard children from addiction to online gaming. The advisory issued by the Rajasthan Council of School Education details technical points which are helpful in monitoring the activities and involvement of the children in gaming.