In September, the Karnataka Assembly passed an amendment to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, which seeks to ban online gaming and curtail online gambling. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the proposal is not valid for online games that strictly comply with the ‘game of skill’.
With the implementation of this law, the violation can attract maximum imprisonment of three years and a penalty up to Rs. 1 lakh. Soon after the bill was passed, it created controversy in the gaming industry, as leaders criticised the move of the Karnataka government.
Many fear that the move may hamper the image of Bangalore as it is a hub for unicorns. The gaming industry is also concerned that the overall gaming ecosystem of India can get affected by introducing a law not prohibiting online real money skill gaming in its State.
Expectedly, the Bengaluru police filed an FIR against Dream11 founders on a complaint for violating the new law. After that, the online fantasy gaming company suspended its operations in the state.
The company has decided to suspend the operations in the state after concerns from its users over their safety and security. “Following the recent media coverage, our Karnataka users have expressed deep concerns and anxiety about their safety and security. In order to allay our users’ concerns, we have decided to suspend operations in Karnataka. This decision is without prejudice to our rights and contentions under law,” said the company.
Voicing concern over youngsters getting hooked on mobile games, Rajya Sabha member and senior BJP chief Sushil Kumar Modi on Friday demanded that the federal government ought regulate the online gaming industry and impose a uniform tax on it. Raising the difficulty throughout the Zero Hour, he stated these online video games have now given strategy to playing and betting.
Also, a startup industry association has requested the central government to draw up rules for online gaming In India, along with age- and genre-based classifications.
IndiaTech which have companies like Mobile Premier League and Dream11 has written to Information and Technology (IT) Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to frame rules similar to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a self-regulatory body that assigns age and content ratings to online video games in the United States (US), Mexico and Canada.
The body also asked for the implementation of rules and regulations like AI-based interventions to monitor and restrict addictions and limits on the amount of money that gamers can spend and win.
Earlier, National General-Secretary of Confederation of All India Trade, Praveen Khandelwal in a tweet said, “Karnataka’s bill to ban online gaming will be a setback to Indian startups. We (CAIT India) endorse a ban on foreign apps but also ban Indian games skills which will kill the gaming industry.”
As of now, the Union Ministry of Education has circulated advisories. The ministry said that playing online games leads to a serious gaming addiction which has been considered a gaming disorder.
The ministry in a statement said that in the new era of technology, online gaming is very popular with children because of the challenges it brings to the players which excite them and make them play more which can lead to addiction.
“Online gaming can be accessed with the use of a phone or a tablet which is a common factor in online game addiction because children can easily play games anywhere anytime affecting their time for their school and social life. Furthermore, the closure of schools due to the pandemic has increased the use of mobile phones and the internet by children,” said the ministry.
However, online gaming has many downsides. Playing online games leads to a serious gaming addiction which has been considered a gaming disorder. The game is designed in a way that each level is more complicated and complex than the previous one. This causes a player to push themselves to the limit in order to progress in the game, it added.
The ministry emphasised how playing online games with no restriction and self-limits leads many players to become addicted and are eventually diagnosed with gaming disorder.
How is the gaming industry reacting:
Earlier, Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation said, “India is the fifth largest online gaming market globally and skill-based gaming, a sunrise sector, is giving birth to an increasing number of unicorns within the country, especially Karnataka”
Landers added that the sector has been a strong financial contributor to the Indian economy even during an unprecedented period of slowdown and is further expected to generate revenues in excess of $ 3 billion by 2025. The move by the Karnataka government is a setback to the state’s reputation of being a tech-hub and start-up capital.”
“The ban has hindered corporate sponsorships, especially from online skill gaming companies affected by the bill and in turn has affected organisations like KSCA. We would request the honourable State Government to make necessary amendments to the law and help games of skill like chess to flourish in the state and the country,” said President of Karnataka State Chess Association, D.P Ananth.