Games Indians Play

The question which arises then is how games of skill can be distinguished from gambling? What are the parameters which constitute a game of skill?

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In recent years, the growth in real-money gaming has been exponential. According to estimates, the real money gaming segment of the Indian gaming industry is valued at 49 billion rupees.

But the huge money at stake is only one of the several issues that have come to the fore with the rapid emergence of this industry. The real money gaming industry and online gambling constitute a big chunk of the overall online gaming industry in India. There are concerns about the legal status of these activities and questions about whether or not real money gaming and online gambling should be allowed to operate. A majority of these concerns emanate from the sociological implications of gambling. There can be a multitude of societal problems ranging from addiction to financial losses for people if real money games with elements of betting continue to operate without the necessary regulatory oversight.

On the other hand, viewpoints are expressing that there is a clear distinction between wild speculation and skill-based online gaming that involves real money. For clarity of discussion here, there needs to be a clear distinction between pure gambling and games of skill. Juxtaposing gaming and gambling or using these terms interchangeably muddles the dialogue around these complex and contentious issues. The question which arises then is how games of skill can be distinguished from gambling? What are the parameters which constitute a game of skill? Only when these questions are answered clarity on banning or legalising games with speculative elements can ensue. There can be some points that can aid in making an informed decision about this dilemma. Games of skill include activities where the player can use his experience, gained skills and mental application to have a decisive advantage over the outcome of a contest. Whereas in pure gambling the outcome of a contest depends solely on the odds and even mental application or skills might not be able to change the outcome.

The online skill-based gaming industry has a huge potential for inducing job growth and stimulating economic development in India. Therefore, any decision about the legality of this industry should originate from informed and consultative dialogue amongst all concerned stakeholders. It is time that India develops a crystal-clear directive policy on this issue to ensure that this sunrise industry is not marred by bureaucratic and legal red tape. The onus is also on the shoulders of the gaming industry to ensure safeguards from excessive financial losses that vulnerable players have suffered. If there is a clear line drawn between skill-based games with elements of chance and gambling from a government authority, the clouds of doubt over this sector of the gaming industry will clear up.

There is scope for the Indian economy to gain a competitive edge over other countries in the gaming sector owing to its large consumer base and increased Internet penetration in the remotest corners, there have been several court rulings that have declared that skill-based online fantasy gaming cannot be considered gambling. The stakeholders dealing with this issue are walking the tightrope of legality while navigating the rough waters of policymaking. The measures required to accommodate the challenges around the legality of the online gaming industry will have to alter the current laws governing the sector. Any new regulation has to be devoid of state-led overregulation and keep in mind the reality, which this booming sector presents in front of all of us.

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