IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw advocates for central law to regulate online gaming

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During the Lok Sabha session on February 8, Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the government should enact a central law to regulate the online gaming industry, and classifying these apps as intermediaries is the first step in that direction.

“We as responsible lawmakers should come with a central act, which basically has been drafted in consultation with everybody, and that act should be effectively regulating the online games and online gambling,” Vaishnaw said, as quoted by Moneycontrol.

“Already, 19 states and Union territories have passed their own laws. Seventeen states have actually amended the Public Gambling Act, 1867, and introduced the online gambling elements within the act,” he added.

Vaishnaw also answered a series of questions in writing asked by the members of the House. K. Muraleedharan and Benny Behanan asked if the government plans to give any incentives to start-ups for promotion of the gaming startup ecosystem to which Vaishnaw replied that the government has always done so and will continue to support the growing startup ecosystem. The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) is currently supporting several tech and gaming startups with different policies which include –

1. Technology Incubation and Development of Entrepreneurs (TIDE 2.0) Scheme
2. Center of Excellence on Gaming, VFX, Computer Vision & AI
3. Domain specific Centers of Excellence
4. SAMRIDH Scheme
5. Next Generation Incubation Scheme (NGIS)
6. Support for International Patent Protection in E&IT (SIP-EIT) Scheme
7. GENESIS (Gen-Next Support for Innovative Startups)

On being asked if the national level rules for online gaming will supersede state-level legislation, Vaishnaw responded, “As per the provisions of article 246 of the Constitution, State Legislatures are competent to legislate on matters enumerated in List II (State List) and List III (Concurrent List) of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, while Parliament is competent to legislate on matters enumerated in List I (Union List) and the List III.”

“With regard to classifying of online games as intermediaries, it is informed that the term
‘intermediary’ is defined in clause (w) of subsection (1) of section 2 of the IT Act, and as per
sub-rule (2) of rule 2 of the IT Rules, 2021, this term has the same meaning in the IT Rules as well. The said definition does not include publishers within the meaning of the term
‘Intermediary’,” he said in response to the question about the reason for classifying publishers of online games as intermediaries.

Another member, Raksha Khadse, asked if the government was planning to conduct a survey to ascertain the amount of money people are investing in illegal places. Vaishnaw replied in the negative.

Rajendra Agrawal, another Lok Sabha member, asked about the data related to suicides due to losing money in online gambling and harassment by companies providing such services. In response, Vaishnaw shared the number of cases registered at both state and Union Territory levels under the subcategory “Abetment to suicide (online)” within the category of “Cybercrimes”.

On being asked if the government has proposed to bring any strict legislation to prevent online gambling and illegal betting, Vaishnaw said that according to the requirements of Article 162, the States have executive power over matters relating to betting and gambling. Additionally, according to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, “Police” is a State subject under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, and it is their responsibility to prevent and investigate cognizable offences including the ones related to illegal gambling and betting.

Meanwhile, MeitY was appointed as the nodal ministry last year in December and has released the draft online gaming rules in order to regulate the sector in India. The public consultation on the draft rules were open till January 25 and they are being finalised now.