MeitY to certify ‘permissible’ online games until SROs are formed

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Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), has announced that the Centre will be certifying which online games are permissible until the self-regulatory organizations (SROs) are established.

This comes after the government’s announcement of forming their own SROs if the gaming industry fails to do so. Earlier, MeitY had requested the gaming bodies to form SROs within 30 days or up to a maximum of 90 days from the date of notification which is April 6, 2023.

Chandrasekhar said that they cannot keep waiting for the formation of an SRO and can certify themselves what is wagering and what is not or what games are to be permitted. In case there is any doubt over removal orders with regard to applications for real money gaming, gambling, and betting, the Centre will write to all major gaming companies including Apple and Google.

“The whole idea was that the SRO will help intermediaries, be it Apple or Google to determine what is a permissible online game, but the SRO will take 2–3 months to be finalised. In the interim, the government of India will step in and certify what is the permissible game or not,” said Chandrasekhar as quoted by The Economic Times.

While there are many types of real money gaming apps, Chandrasekhar has assured that only those involving wagering would be banned. Apple also previously wrote to MeitY that they have banned around 70 apps but are unable to locate the URLs for the rest.

There is also lack of clarity regarding the term wagering used in the new online gaming rules. The industry has been wondering what games come under wagering and are going to be barred. While the government has told that any game containing an aspect of wagering will not be allowed, a proper definition for the term hasn’t been provided.

Former Senior Director and Group Co-ordinator, Cyber Laws and Data Governance at MeitY, Rakesh Maheshwari, recently talked about what wagering meant under the new rules, stating that it pertains to wagering on any outcome, be it games of skill or games of chance, and will not be allowed.

Eminent gaming and technology lawyer Jay Sayta believes that the government certifying games that are permissible and those are not will be a good starting point in understanding what types of games would be permissible when SROs are formed.

“But beyond that it will not serve much purpose because the IT rules relating to online gaming can come into force only three months after three SROs are formed or if the government issues a notification sooner than the three months,” he added.