AIGF releases draft model charter for online gaming SRB: A brief look

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Gaming industry body All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), which is forming one of the self-regulatory bodies (SRB), has released a draft model charter, outlining all the important steps that need to be taken by the SRBs and its members under the new IT rules.

The charter focuses on several aspects including the principles governing the SRB, conditions for providing membership to online gaming intermediaries, maintaining financial integrity, advertising practices, grievance redressal mechanisms, etc.

Only the intermediaries that offer real money games (RMG), or online games that come under the new rules will be provided membership. The companies need to follow the application procedure, providing all relevant details to the SRB.

To register, the firms must have a physical office in India. Membership will be provided for a period of one year and can be renewed at the end of the time frame. Online gaming intermediaries, at all times, are required to identify themselves while offering their games.

Legality and Transparency

All members are required to abide by the conditions and requirements prescribed by the State or Central Government. Any real money game offered should be permissible under the new rules. Games having any wagering aspect on outcomes or are purely games of chance are not allowed.

In terms of transparency, gaming intermediaries are required to state their terms and conditions, fees, withdrawal and refund policies and the measures being taken to protect user deposited funds. Proper KYC procedure is also required to be followed. Any changes in the policy shall be notified under 24 hours to the SRB and the users.

On the SRB side, all SRBs are required to maintain a record of its members and the games offered by them and publish them on their website in a timely manner along with details of its grievance officer and grievance redressal mechanism.

Due diligence and user protection by members

All members are required to refrain from publishing content that is not permissible under Rule 3(1)(b) of the IT Rules, 2021. In case of release of objectionable content, members are to take it down within prescribed statutory timelines.

Verified games are to have a verification mark that should be clearly displayed on their website or mobile application. Any person from the member online gaming firm is restricted to play against other players to maintain game integrity.

Publishing of responsible gaming policy on the member’s platform is required along with taking necessary steps to let users know of their extended gaming sessions to prevent stress or addiction of any form. Age rating for games and parental access is a must to safeguard children based on the nature of the game.

Member Grievance Redressal Mechanism

All members of the SRB should have a proper grievance redressal mechanism in place for resolving user complaints which can be tracked through a unique ticket number. A grievance officer is to be assigned by every member that will address the issues faced by the users.

The members should also have a Chief Compliance Officer in the role of key managerial personnel and a nodal contact person working with law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance.

Financial Integrity Measures

Verification of users through KYC process is required to be done by every member. Funds from users shall be utilized to settle winnings only. Compliance with direct and indirect tax law obligations towards users is also required.

Measures to secure user funds should be implemented along with proper anti-money laundering and fraud prevention measures.

Disclosure to Self-Regulatory Body

All important information shall be relayed to the SRB at all times. These include directions from any court in India or State or Central Government against any online game offered by the member, filing of a petition for bankruptcy, winding up or insolvency procedure and others against any member.

Verification of Online Games

SRB is to develop an appropriate verification mechanism for games that evaluates their adherence to the rules. After verification, the SRB is to provide a verification mark for every permissible game. In case of rejection, SRB should provide the reason, too.

Members are to obtain ‘No Bot’ and ‘Random Number Generator‘ certification as prescribed by the SRB. Furthermore, proper steps to implement geographical limitations on online games are to be taken when required by the law.

SRB Grievance Redressal

SRB is also to set up a grievance redressal mechanism for complaints and issues raised by members. An officer will be in charge of resolving disputes with the SRB regarding verification of real money games.

Framework for grievance redressal is to be published and updated by the SRB along with contact details of grievance redressal officer. Moreover, a framework concerning a proper timeline of resolution, scope, complaint requirements and procedure is to be laid down.

In case of unresolved grievances, the case is to be taken to a Grievance Appellate Committee. The final decision by the Appellate Committee should be accepted by the SRB and its member.