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The online gaming sector in India is batting for a single regulatory body that will standardize the regulations governing the entire online skill gaming industry—not just fantasy sports.
This is the recommendation made by The Online Rummy Federation (TORF) shortly after government think tank Niti Aayog published a draft report titled, ‘Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India,’ in which it proposed a single, self-regulatory body for the fantasy sports sector.
Niti Aayog must include rummy, skill games in draft
In a statement, TORF noted that online skills-based games like rummy should be covered in the scope of Niti Aayog’s draft policy. Sameer Barde, chief executive officer of the federation, said, “The fast-growing skill based games like rummy, account for approximately 50 per cent of the overall industry revenues. Fantasy sports is a part of the overall skill gaming industry.”
The skill gaming industry in India, much like fantasy sports, is beset with a convoluted set of laws and regulations that vary state by state. Since the 1960s, the Supreme Court of India has distinguished games of skill from gambling, upholding the constitutional right to play and offer skill-based games like online rummy. As noted by Asia Gaming Brief recently, fantasy sports betting is allowed in most parts of the country, since it is considered a game of skill. The state of Sikkim allows sports betting and online gambling under the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act 2008.
“It is a brilliant move to have fair regulations for the online skill gaming industry in India… But at the same time, it is paramount to understand that fantasy games are only a part of the entire skill gaming industry. There is an equal, if not a larger need, to regulate the broader skill gaming industry,” Barde noted.
Indians are passionate for gambling
With a population of 1.36 billion, India is considered to have a huge market for gambling. An ENV Media report, titled India’s Richest Cities and Its Large Online Gambling Communities, noted how the online gambling market is growing thanks to improved internet penetration and the rise in mobile device usage.
In its report, ENV Media experts point out the state of Maharashtra and Delhi where Teen Patti is played most online per capita, along with other casual casino games at 10Cric like Andar Bahar and rummy. According to the report, “Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad
lead the way. To a relative extent, Pune, Ahmedabad and Surat also contribute to a better online gambling penetration in India.
”We have seen a dramatic increase in booth search and users searching for real money options to play both Teen Patti and Andar Bahar, to meet this demand more and more game developers are localising their product offers in India” says Mattias Bergehed, Managing Director of 7Jackpots.com
So it’s not surprising why industry bodies like TORF are calling for a unified regulatory agency for skill games—and not just fantasy sports. Bhavin Pandya, co-founder and CEO of Games24x7, told IANS media service, “NITI Aayog should take a more forward looking view and recommend a framework for all games of skill. Fantasy is one game of skill, and while distinctions have been made in the media between fantasy and other games of skill, the judgements which rule that fantasy is a game of skill are based on the 1996 Supreme Court judgement which rules horseracing and rummy to be games of skill… In law, there is no distinction between fantasy sports and any other game of skill.”