PM Modi Steers Online Gaming Regulation to a Temporary Hold

07 Jan 2024

The end of the preceding year of 2023 saw Prime Minister Modi’s office take the steering wheel on online gaming regulation for the second time after moving in October 2022 to include games of chance and offshore operations in the purview of what was initially intended to be skill gaming-only regulation.

This time, PM Modi’s action brought all developments on the gaming regulatory front to a complete halt after work had reached a near standstill towards the end of 2023 in the lack of notified Self-Regulatory Organisations (SROs) to certify “permissible online money games.”

A top-level Group of Ministers (GoM) was about to be officialized on the 15th of December and commence a full reconsideration of “all the aspects of the online gaming sector.” Still, according to media reports, discussions within the office of the Prime Minister have put this initiative on hold as well.

Self-Regulation on Gaming Is Getting Left Out of the Puzzle

Expectations are that a decision on how to proceed will be taken within the next few weeks, and it will probably involve the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) assuming direct responsibility over online gaming and doing the job of the non-existent SROs under the existing IT Rules.

As per the amendments to the IT Rules notified in April 2023, the new provisions on online gaming will come into force three months after at least three Self-Regulatory Bodies have been notified.

“There has been no progress on the appointment of SRBs. We received only one application so far, and we didn’t like it,” Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar stated, despite industry associations announcing a total of four SRO applications in 2023.

“We’ve been very clear that we didn’t want (the SROs) to be industry-dominated,” MoS Chandrasekhar hinted at the concerns that might have held the Central Government to approve the SROs backed by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), the E-Gaming Federation of India (EGF), and other industry group-related organizations.

The Nodal Ministry for Online Gaming Might Have to Act Like One

In December 2022, the Allocation of Business Rules were amended to name MeitY as the nodal ministry for online games, safe from e-Sports, which went to the Sports Department, making the Electronics Ministry the sole governmental agent responsible for India’s online money gaming sector.

With the industry’s failure to provide a “credible institution” to oversee gaming, as per the government’s assessment, MeitY now seems ready to assume a greater role.

“We won’t dilute the basic principles. We may consider that the government gives itself the power to determine permissibility in online gaming,” the Minister of State explained the possible way ahead.