In recent years, India’s online gaming industry has expanded dramatically. However, concerns have emerged about its impact on users, particularly children and other vulnerable members of society. To address these concerns, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) amended the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. These modifications will put in place adequate safeguards to protect Indian Digital Nagriks from illegal gambling and betting websites and apps.
The Issues and Concerns of the Online Gaming Industry in India
While some games of skill are legal in India, betting and gambling are prohibited under various state laws. Despite this, a number of social and economic issues have arisen in the online gaming industry in recent years. These are some examples:
i) User harms in the form of addiction-related concerns among children and adults, particularly in terms of financial losses incurred by adult users as a result of such addiction.
ii) Concerns about the portrayal of violent or inappropriate content, with no concrete measures in place to prevent children from accessing such content or real money games.
iii) Advertisements for offshore gambling and betting websites aimed at Indian users.
iv) In the absence of a strict KYC mechanism, there are no safeguards to secure users’ money and money laundering concerns.
New Measures Introduced to Ensure Safety and Accountability
To address these concerns, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) amended the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to include various checks and balances. The rules establish sufficient safeguards to protect Indian Digital Nagriks from illegal gambling and betting websites and apps.
Obligation on Intermediaries to Ensure User Safety
The rules require intermediaries, such as social media platforms and app stores, to make reasonable efforts to not host, publish, or share any online game that causes user harm or that has not been verified as a permissible online game by a Central Government-designated online gaming self-regulatory body (SRB).
Disallowed Advertising of Illegal Betting and Gambling Operations
The rules prohibit intermediaries from hosting or displaying any advertisement, surrogate advertisement, or promotion of a prohibited online game. This will help to address the growing problem of illegal betting and gambling advertisements targeting Indian users online.
Banning of Wagering Online Games
The rules will prohibit the use of online games or sites that involve wagering, as well as any advertising or presence at all. The rules introduce the concept of ‘permissible online game’ to accomplish this. These rules will eventually allow only online real money games in India that are verified by SRBs as not involving wagering on any outcome, being compliant with the obligations under these rules, the legal age at which an individual is competent to enter into a contract, and the framework established by the SRB.
User Protection Measures
The SRB’s framework will ensure that only online games with safeguards against user harm, including self-harm and psychological harm, will be permitted to operate. Measures will be put in place to protect children through parental controls and age-rating mechanisms, and to protect users against the risk of gaming addiction, financial loss, and fraud through measures such as repeated warning messages at higher frequency in long gaming sessions, and provision to allow a user to exclude himself if user-defined limits for time or money spent are reached.
Enhancing Public Awareness of Trusted Online Games
Users can identify permissible online games by looking for a demonstrable and visible mark of verification, which must be displayed for all online games verified by SRBs. The rules require SRBs to publish an updated list of all permissible online real money games that it has verified, along with the applicant’s requirements such as periodic withdrawals of user funds and strict adherence to anti-money laundering laws.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has introduced new rules to promote responsible online gaming while ensuring the safety of Indian Digital Nagriks, particularly children and other vulnerable members of society. These rules define a ‘permissible online game’ and require online games to be verified by an online gaming self-regulatory body (SRB) designated by the Central Government.
The rules also address addiction-related concerns in children and adults through safeguards such as warning messages, monetary spending limits, and time limits. Furthermore, the rules raise public awareness about trusted online games that have gone through a mandatory verification process.
The Indian government’s guidelines and regulations will help promote responsible online gaming in the country and provide a safe and secure environment for Indian Digital Nagriks. It is critical for online gaming companies and intermediaries to follow these regulations in order to provide a safe and secure platform for their users.
Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 dated April 6, 2023
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 20211 (updated as on April 6, 2023)
The guidelines for online gaming issued by the Government of India are a welcome move that will help ensure the safety of digital citizens and the accountability of the online gaming industry. The guidelines will help promote responsible online gaming and ensure that the industry operates in a transparent and fair manner. We hope that the guidelines will help create a safe and secure environment for online gaming in India.