What Should Indian Gaming Operators Do To Stop More States From Banning iGaming?
Gaming analysts predicted that India would be one of the fastest-growing markets for the online gambling industry. They were right for most parts as India’s iGaming market started to grow exponentially fuelled by the entry of top offshore betting sites and local betting sites.
Fast growth Hampers iGaming Market
India does not allow gambling in any form in most states, but archaic gaming laws have loopholes that have allowed iGaming operators to offer games like slots, poker, rummy, teen Patti, daily fantasy sports, live casino games, eSports and sports betting.
Indian players have been more than happy to sign up at these offshore betting sites and enjoy their favorite games from the comfort of their homes. A number of these online casino and betting sites have allowed for mobile gaming which has enabled Indian players to enjoy gaming while on the go.
COVID-19 turned out to be a great boost for India’s iGaming sites as the extended lockdown caused many young Indians to turn to online gaming to get their entertainment fix and see if they can make some money on the side. The success of Indian players on the global gaming scene has also fuelled online gaming popularity in India.
While iGaming operators were very happy to see the quick rise in new player subscriptions and the increase in gross gaming revenues (GGR) during the pandemic, the fast growth of the iGaming industry has also brought with it pitfalls.
Increase in Gambling Debts and Suicides
Since there is no gaming regulation governing iGaming nor a gambling regulator, iGaming operators have had a free hand in their marketing and operational activities. This has caught the attention of gambling opponents in India who have expressed their concern in the increase of gambling-related debts and suicides in the country.
Several gambling opponents have decided to file public interest litigation (PIL) reports with the state courts. These PILs pointed out to specific incidents of gambling-related debts and suicides. They asked the state courts to take action and stop iGaming operators from preying on the Indian market.
The PILs demanded Indian players to be offered better protection so that young Indians don’t succumb to misleading gambling advertisements claiming they can get rich gambling or win big payouts by playing at certain casinos.
PILs have been filed in multiple states including the state capital Delhi and the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bengaluru and more recently Kerala.
Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have already banned online gambling and have made it clear that anyone offering or engaging in online gambling will be slapped with criminal charges. Kerala which had exempted online rummy in the past has revoked that exemption in light of the PIL and has once again made it illegal to play online rummy.
Way Forward For iGaming Operators
iGaming operators who want to continue operating in India need to do more to ensure that more states don’t implement a blanket ban on online gambling. iGaming operators need to band together and form an iGaming association that looks to operate within a specified set of guidelines.
iGaming operators must commit to engaging in responsible marketing practices that don’t prey on unsuspecting players. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued a new set of guidelines regarding the increase in suicides and gambling debt. iGaming operators need to ensure that they comply with these new guidelines and not target minors or problem gamblers.
Responsible Gambling Policies
Most of the online gaming sites catering to the Indian market don’t have responsible gambling measures in place or have measures in place, but their players don’t know about them or how to use them. iGaming operators will need to ensure that they have a robust responsible gambling policy, and the same is highlighted to their players.
Indian players must learn and know that they can impose restrictions on themselves that will prevent them from going overboard with their spending and gambling time.
iGaming operators will also have to allocate funds to promote responsible gambling and show Indian authorities that they are not looking to take advantage of players.
Gaming Regulator Needs To Be Established
The ideal scenario would be for states to legalize gambling and put regulatory requirements that protect both operators and players. Since most states have not done this, iGaming operators should campaign for online gambling to be legalized and for a gambling regulator to be established.
If iGaming operators continue to make hay while the sun shines and not worry about the end-user, it will not be long before they get banned from offering any form of iGaming services in India.