Recent Guidelines to Regulate Online Real Money Games in India

June 11, 2023 | Government

Global, India (June 2, 2023) — The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has introduced significant amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, marking a notable step forward in regulating online real money games in India. These revisions represent a proactive approach by the government to address concerns related to addiction, financial losses, and the well-being of younger players. This blog explores the details of these regulatory guidelines, aimed at striking a balance between promoting innovation and ensuring the best interests of all stakeholders involved.

Recognizing the immense potential of this rapidly growing sector, the Indian government has embraced the need for a centralized regulatory framework. The goal is to establish uniformity in the way the industry is governed. Such measures have been prompted by concerns over addiction to online games and the resulting financial losses, particularly among the younger generation. Shockingly, there have even been reported cases of suicide.

Following intense deliberations involving various stakeholders, including gaming operators, investors, parents, students, and gamers themselves, MeitY has now officially unveiled the Gaming Amendments. These amendments provide a self-regulation model for the online gaming sector, with crucial oversight entrusted to self-regulatory bodies (SRBs). The primary responsibility of these SRBs is to ensure that online games are operated in a transparent and unbiased manner, fully compliant with the law.

According to the amended Rules, an “online game” is defined as “a game that is offered on the Internet and accessible to users through a computer resource or intermediary.” Meanwhile, an online gaming intermediary refers to “any intermediary that enables users to access one or more online games through its computer resource.” The Rules propose that the SRBs approve the games that can operate in the country, in accordance with the regulations. Consequently, the SRBs play a crucial role in verifying that these games are operated in a fair and lawful manner.

To maintain integrity and ensure comprehensive oversight, the amended Rules specify that SRBs must include individuals with expertise or practical experience in the online gaming industry, individuals experienced in promoting user interests in online games, educationists, individuals well-versed in information and communications technology, experts in psychology or mental health, and individuals who are or have been members of organizations involved in the protection of child rights.

Among the key requirements set out by the amended Rules, SRBs must consistently publish and update on their website or mobile application, an exhaustive list of all authorized online real money games, along with details of the applicant, verification dates, validity period, reasons for verification, and any suspensions or revocations of verification. Additionally, SRBs must maintain an updated list of current and former members, indicating acceptance dates, corporate or business-related identity numbers, and details of any membership suspensions or revocations. Furthermore, verified online real money games and the online gaming intermediaries providing access to them must display a visible mark of verification issued by the SRB, clearly stating that the game is verified as permissible under these Rules.

The Rules also mandate that SRBs publish a framework to safeguard the interests of India’s sovereignty, integrity, security, and friendly relations with foreign states, as well as maintaining public order. The framework should also focus on protecting users from self-harm and psychological harm, shielding children from inappropriate or harmful online games through parental controls and age-rating mechanisms, and mitigating the risks of gaming addiction, financial loss, and fraud. It should include prominently displayed warning messages during gaming sessions and provisions allowing users to set limits on time and money spent, with the ability to exclude themselves once those limits are reached.

Moreover, SRBs must publish a comprehensive framework for addressing grievances, including contact details for a designated Grievance Officer. Any applicant who feels aggrieved by a decision of an SRB with regard to verification may lodge a complaint related to the online real money game or verification. The Grievance Officer is required to acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within fifteen days. In cases where deemed necessary, the Ministry has the authority to suspend or revoke the designation of an SRB, following a fair hearing and with reasons recorded in writing.

Under the Rules, the government is initially set to establish three self-regulatory organizations (SROs), with the potential for additional SROs to be appointed in the future. Furthermore, MeitY has been empowered to establish a fact-checking unit to identify and address instances of incorrect or misleading information hosted on any intermediary platform.

Mr. Rajeev Chandrashekhar, the Minister of State for Electronics and IT, has emphasized that “permissible online games are those games, whether involving real money or not, that do not include wagering, harm users in their content, or create addictive consequences for children.”

It is important to note that the Rules allow for all forms of online real money games except those that involve “wagering on any outcome.” Consequently, it falls upon the SRBs to determine which games involve wagering and which do not.

The amended Rules have been met with overwhelming support from online gaming companies and industry associations, who consider this a landmark moment and an opportunity to foster gaming innovation within India.

Thus, the Online Gaming Rules represent a significant step toward consolidating the regulation of online gaming in India. They address the longstanding demands of various stakeholders, offering a framework to control and govern this dynamic industry effectively. As India’s gaming landscape continues to evolve, these guidelines pave the way for a dynamic and sustainable industry that caters to the needs and aspirations of players across the nation.

SOURCE: Click Here.

By: Sharad Vadehra and Kanu Priya

View original.

SOURCES: Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance (GALA)Lexology.