Ministers Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Piyush Goyal hint at stringent regulations for online gaming sector

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MoS for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar, in an exclusive interview with ET Now recently, spoke on a host of topics relating to online gaming. When asked about tax evasion in the online gaming space and what the new budget should contain to address it he said, “there’s really nothing to be speculating about, the government of India the ministry has had number of rounds of consultation on this.”

“We have met not just gaming companies, we’ve met gamers, we have understood and learned so much about the toxicity and issues related to women gamers and we believe that there will be a framework that will be evolved that will create a safe and trusted gaming environment in India which is not gambling,” he added.

“But since this is an inter-ministerial consultation there were a lot of secretaries and a lot of departments of the government of India that sat down and worked on it. The process is just entering into its last lap and you will, in my opinion, very shortly see the government come out and tell you what the framework of that online gaming ecosystem will be.”

When asked if this would be before the parliament session, Chandrasekhar said, “We will see. I mean we tend to not want to work two timelines like Parliament session. We would rather create the framework, have extensive consultations on the framework, make sure all the stakeholders are onboarded and like what we are doing before we announce anything as a law or as a rule or as a guide.”

When asked to confirm if it was not going to be self-regulatory, Chandrasekhar said, “I want to explain that there seems to be a misunderstanding in people when they say self-regulation. Self-regulation is not no-regulation. There is a tendency to delude yourself especially in the industry to say self-regulation means I will be the judge and jury about whether I am right and I will make the rules. Self-regulation means it is not government owned or it is not government initiated, it could have industry representatives, it could be a self-regulatory organization, however the test that an SRO has is that it has to be accountable for anything that goes wrong in that industry or in that ecosystem. So accountability is as important in expectation from self-regulatory organizations as anything else is.”

Chandrashekhar also said, “I have put the ball in the court of the industry and said, look if you can come up with architect and design a self-regulatory organization that meets the test, it must be transparent, it must include consumers as a stakeholder, it must have industry and it must be transparent in terms of how it does and what rules it makes and it must be accountable, so the ball is in their court let them come back, the government is very open and has absolutely enough on its plate.”

“As I said even during the I.T rules it is not our business to sit down and adjudicate dispute between gamers and gaming companies or consumers and intermediaries. Ideally, the industry should be mature enough to have a system of making sure there are no complaints and grievances or have a self-regulatory organization that meets the test.”

When asked whether the government will define “game of chance” or “game of skill” he replied, “the basic tenet of that will be that ‘gambling’, that is, games of chance will not be permitted.”

On being told about the different views of different states regarding games of skill and games of chance Chandrasekhar responded, “I don’t think it’s a question of people deciding what is a game of chance and game of skill. There will be guidelines that will automatically permit a regulatory organization or institution or an SRO to say, this is a game of chance and this is a game of skill, that is the approach that we planned. There will be some method of filtering out game of chance, game of skill and there will be guidelines that will define what is the game of chance and what is the game of skill.”

Lastly, on the topic of asking gamers for KYC Chandrasekhar said, “Anyone who uses the financial ecosystem must have KYC.”

Meanwhile, Commerce and Industry minister Piyush Goyal also touched upon online gaming at the CII’s Big Picture Summit on Thursday. Goyal said that there are concerns about “to what level and extent, we would like to have gaming” in the country.

“Are we willing and happy to have the next generation completely taken in by betting, or by engaging with money on the various gaming platforms? That is another question that requires deep thought,” said Goyal.

The minister also proposed that the specialists in the field should offer suggestions for preventing addiction and ruining the society.