Inter-Ministerial Task Force submits report to Government on regulation of online gaming industry

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The inter-ministerial task force (IMTF) committee comprising of Chief Executive Officer, NITI Aayog and the Secretaries of the departments of Home Affairs, Sports, Information and Broadcasting, Revenue, Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Legal Affairs, Electronics and Information Technology and Consumer Affairs has submitted its report to the government, the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting said in the Lok Sabha.

The report submitted to Prime Minister’s office in September by IMTF said, “Moreover since we are in the process of replacing all obsolete laws, it becomes all the more important to replace the existing law(s) with new legislation that will not only cover the entire gamut of technology and internet-based gaming but would also provide coverage for extraterritorial jurisdiction which is completely missing at present.”

The report backed central legislation while also pointing out discrepancies in the laws regarding online gambling.

In a related question, the Government said through Software Technology Park of India (STPI) it has set up IMAGE, a Centre of Excellence focused on Gaming, VFX, Computer Vision & AI, at Hyderabad in collaboration with industry.

The government said it has over 1,330 recognised startups in 2022 from Animation, Gaming, and Graphics sector. In 2016, this number was at 5.

The government said online gaming platforms are intermediaries, and they have to follow the due diligence as prescribed in the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.

The IMTF report said there is lack of uniformity is a huge concern: “This creates an uncertain regulatory environment for online gaming companies, which are forced to use technologies such as geo-fencing as their games may be legal in some states, and illegal in others.”

Some prime examples are Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, which passed laws to ban online games of skills and chance alike. Other states are also planning to make their own laws, adding more inconsistency in the online gaming sector.

The IETF report also focused on how the same games are sitting at different legal positions in different states; for example, Gujarat High Court have deemed poker to be a game of chance and hence illegal, but at the same time Calcutta High Court has  considered it as a game of skill.