Government panel calls for a Central law and a regulatory body for online gaming

India should create a regulatory body to classify online games as based on skill or chance, introduce rules to block prohibited formats and take a stricter stance on gambling websites, a government panel said in a report seen by the Reuters.

The panel of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s top officials has for months been drafting regulations for the country’s online gaming sector, where foreign investors such as Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital have backed gaming startups Dream11 and Mobile Premier League, hugely popular for fantasy cricket.

The much-awaited report is seen as shaping the future of the mobile gaming industry in India, estimated to reach $5 billion by 2025 from $1.5 billion this year. It comes amid rising concerns over games causing addiction and “inconsistent State laws” disrupting business.

Simply defining games has been contentious. The Supreme Court says that the card game rummy and certain fantasy games are skill-based and legal, but at least one State court has classified games such as poker as chance-based or akin to gambling, which is banned in most States.

In its confidential draft report, the panel of government officials has called for creation of a new regulatory body under the IT Ministry to determine which online games qualify as games of skill, then “seek compliances and enforcement”.

To streamline the legal framework, the 108-page report says that India needs a new Central online gaming law, which will provide regulatory flexibility “with punishment provisions, along with blocking powers, for the government against prohibited gaming formats”.

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