Ambiguity around ‘wagering’ persists among online gaming stakeholders, minister believes otherwise

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The amendments to the IT Rules, 2021 were released earlier this month by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the MoS for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) with the intention to protect gamers and regulate the industry. Though the rules go a long way in ensuring safety of users on gaming platforms and are largely clear on that front the same cannot be said about the aspects relating to what games will be permitted as there is ambiguity surrounding the term ‘wagering‘.

Eminent technology and gaming lawyer, Jay Sayta, while responding to a tweet today by a user on the possibility of even games of skill such as fantasy sports and poker being banned under the new rules, said that it may not be the case but there was indeed lack of clarity with the wording ‘wagering on any outcome’.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar replied to Sayta’s tweet, insisting that there was no ambiguity relating to the term in concern and shared his earlier tweet in response to an editorial in the Business Standard on the issue which included, among other things, the minister saying that wager is a well-defined expression in contract law and past decisions have made it clear what it means.

Sayta responded by saying that under the contract law wagering involves staking money on activities such as playing billiards, wrestling and even horse racing which is considered as a skill-based game. The lawyer concluded his tweet asking the minister if staking own money against other users or paying entry fees for skill-based games would amount to wagering.

A response from the minister is yet to be received.

Moreover, Chandrasekhar had previously stated placing a wager on a game’s outcome amounts to betting and said that whether a game is skill-based or chanced-based is irrelevant.

“Whether that game is a game of skill, or a game of chance does not matter, you could still be playing chess, and if there is a provision to bet on the outcome of a game of chess, it is still betting, regardless of whether the underlying game is a game of skill,” said Chandrasekhar as quoted by Moneycontrol.

Meanwhile, a day after the new rules were announced representatives of several major online gaming companies and industry bodies such as Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), E-gaming Federation (EGF) and All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) attended a meeting with MeitY officials headed by Chandrasekhar seeking clarifications on the presence of different online gaming laws in different states vis à vis the IT rules, definition of wagering and which games are permitted, and on the KYC norms.

The entire Twitter thread can be accessed from here.