The Tamil Nadu government should introduce policies to regulate online gaming instead of resorting to blanket bans because such extreme measures will boost ill-legal gaming activities, leading to a detrimental impact on the very players the government seeks to protect, said Sameer Barde, Chief Executive Officer, E-Gaming Federation.
“Tamil Nadu needs a strong regulatory mechanism that protects the players by promoting responsible gaming and helps the legitimate operators grow, while weeding out the ones who break the law,” he said.
Mr. Barde requested the Tamil Nadu government to form a joint committee to evaluate the pros and cons of this industry and explore the possibility of establishing a licensing regime.
According to him, several factors are holding back the industry. One among them is ‘perception’. Online gaming battles with the perception of being frivolous and addictive, which acts as a hurdle to its acceptance as a new form of entertainment. “Watching a movie is no hassle but if I’m going to say that I’m going to play online games, I’m not going to be liked,” he said. The potential of this industry could not be achieved in the absence of a standard regulatory framework, he added.
In February 2021, the Tamil Nadu government amended the gaming and police laws to ban online games. The Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act banned all forms of online gaming and said games of mere skill, if played for wager, bet, money or other stake, could not be allowed. The Madras High Court, however, struck down the law in August 2021, observing that a complete ban was unconstitutional.
The court acknowledged that a game involving substantial skills would not amount to gambling and noted that the legislation had to be regarded as something done by the legislature capriciously, irrationally and without any adequate determining principle, making it excessive and disproportionate.
In December 2021, the government moved the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court’s order.
Mr. Barde said that globally gaming was a well-regulated industry, especially in the U.K. and the U.S. “Recently, Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot said his government is looking to regulate the online gaming sector,” he added.
E-Gaming Federation estimates that the Indian gaming market, now valued at $2.2 billion, is poised to reach $7 billion by 2026. “There are so many investors who are pumping money into this industry and we already have three gaming unicorns among the 400-plus gaming companies in India. And this year, you will see three more unicorns,” Mr. Barde noted.