India’s online gaming market needs regulatory structure, policy: TORF’s Sameer Barde

Published on:

Despite being branded as a sunrise sector with tremendous growth potential, the online real money gaming industry has become a lightning rod for bans in southern states. With the likes of Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Kerala taking an unfavorable view and imposing all kinds of restrictions and bans, the sector is indeed facing a challenging landscape.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the industry, data shared by Deloitte suggests that the overall online gaming industry in India will grow by 40 per cent to USD 2.8 billion by 2022.

In such a scenario, how should India navigate the real money gaming market keeping in mind consumer interests?

This debate resurfaced when recently CID Karnataka busted a hawala and money laundering scam worth Rs 290 crore, as an example of effective and alert policing. It is felt that the need to regulate the market is now being sharply realized. The Online Rummy Federation (TORF) congratulated the Karnataka Police, particularly the Cybercrime division of the CID.

For the unversed, TORF is a not-for-profit society established under the Societies Registration Act, to guide and support the online rummy industry in providing sustainable and healthy entertainment to players across India.

Speaking on the issue Sameer Barde, Chief Executive Officer, TORF, said, “As per the information released by the Karnataka Police, it appears that this scandal used a variety of ruses to lure people including a Ponzi investment scheme, an online game, etc. There is some alleged Chinese connection as well.”

As per Barde, it highlights the necessity to effectively regulate the online skill gaming sector.

“Because of low barriers of entry, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of operators offering online games. Some of these operators can be fraudulent ones. An effective regulatory structure and online gaming policy, will weed out the unscrupulous and irresponsible operators, while giving operator space to established players, that follow ethical and responsible gaming practices.”

Cautioning against a banning approach, Barde added that instead of making an effort to effectively regulate the sector, some state governments have banned online gaming, but that hasn’t helped the security of citizens.

“A complete ban actually promotes the underground and illegal operators. We had this example last year, where a state government that had banned online gaming for the last two-three years, unearthed a massive online money laundering scandal with Chinese connections, amounting to Rs 1200 crore.”  

As CEO of TORF, Barde has been a consistent voice championing the need to regulate the online skill gaming industry. Citing the example of TORF’s Code of Conduct, that prescribes and enforces a range of measures for members to operate responsibly, ensuring customer security, Barde said, “Through age checks, SSL encrypted data protection, employing technology and artificial intelligence, TORF mem

The prevalent concern amongst detractors of online real money gaming is that it is addictive and promotes gambling, however a recent detailed and conclusive report by  Consumer Voice, a prominent consumer protection group has published a user survey report, titled “De-mystifying Common Myths Around Online Fantasy Sports“ substantially dispelling these wrongly-held perceptions.

Saying that RMG is synonymous with gambling delegitimizes skill games which are protected under the Indian constitution as a fundamental right to trade and profession. To brand skill games as gambling is an impediment for new businesses who want to foray into the market, users who want to enhance certain skills, and law/policy-makers who want to tap into the industry’s potential.

We believe that more nuanced and amicable discussions involving authorities, gaming experts and players come forward in the days to come.