ONLINE GAMING ITS VALIDITY, AND TIME TO REWRITE THE LAWS

INTRODUCTION

Any game played through the Internet or a computer network is considered online gaming. It mainly refers to online digital games with several participants from all over the world. It relates to internet-based gambling, such as at an online casino or poker room. “Online gaming is any game played through the Internet or a computer network”[1]. It mainly refers to video games played by several people worldwide over the Internet. “Online gaming relates to gambling, such as at an online casino or poker room”[2]. Gaming technology, which can be found on a CD or DVD or downloaded via the Internet, will also be required.

Online gaming is getting more and more common in video games for a variety of reasons. Players can locate opponents with comparable skill levels when competing head-to-head online. Numerous people compete in a virtual environment in massively multiplayer games. Online gamers can frequently connect using text chat sessions, while occasionally, they can also use audio communication tools. For access to the video game software, several online games charge a monthly subscription. “World of Warcraft is one such game (WoW)”[3]. Players may need to pay a monthly membership fee to use the network, allowing them to look for and communicate remotely with other gamers.

ONLINE GAMING: VALIDITY

Everything has gone digital in this digital era, where everyone has access to the internet, and everything has gone digital, from communicating to purchasing to doing business. As a result of the revolution in this digital world, the gaming business has flourished. With the advent of the internet, the digital revolution has altered the face of gaming. Online gaming is becoming increasingly popular. Nowadays, online games are considered one of the fantastic ways to improve the early learning skills of younger children. By playing these online games, today’s teenagers earn sufficient money.

Many contentious games, such as online gambling and betting, have joined the online gaming market in the recent two to three years, which is critical for the online gaming business. Youth and children are obsessed with online games and have been known to commit crimes or make significant mistakes. Numerous examples indicate how these games lead teens and children on the wrong route. The regulations that govern gambling games in India only apply to land-based games and do not apply to online games.

IT Laws affecting the Online Games the Indian cyber legislation, codified in the Information Technology Act of 2000, has laws that can be utilized to govern the online gaming business. Computer-related crimes are defined in Section 66 of the IT Act and are punished by “up to three years in prison” and a fine of up to $5 lakh. Playing obscene content can be regulated under Sections 67, 67A, and 67B. “According to Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, the government can issue orders for the interception, monitoring, and decryption of any information from any computer source under specified conditions, including the country’s sovereignty and integrity”[4]. “The government can issue directives prohibiting public access to any material obtained from any computer source,” section 69A. Circumstances in which intermediaries would be liable and cases in which they would not are defined in Section 79 of the IT Act. Because gambling is a state matter, apart from the Public Gaming Act, the country’s gaming rules, particularly gambling-related games, are governed by state legislation. The laws on the topic vary from state to state, but the most distinction between skill and chance games. Assam’s Game and Betting Act of 1970 distinguish between a “game of skill” and a “game of chance” and forbids all types of betting and gambling on any sports or game. Sikkim passed the Online Gaming Regulation Act 2008 on June 28, 2008, to manage and regulate electronic and non-electronic means in the online gaming sector and impose a tax on online games within its borders. “The Nagaland Prohibition of Gaming and Promotion and Regulation of Online Game of Skill Act, 2016, was also passed by the Nagaland Assembly”[5]. This act regulates and promotes skill games by granting licenses to individuals or businesses with limited liability under the act. Many regular gambling regulations apply to online games, such as cyber, tax, anti-money laundering, and foreign exchange laws. FDI in lotteries and gaming is prohibited under the country’s FDI policy.

Online gambling has grown in popularity as a form of entertainment due to technological innovation and improvements in the fields of the Internet and telecommunications. Given the youth population and the vast reach of technology, India’s online gaming industry has grown fantastic. Industrial revenue is predicted to increase at a CAGR of 22.1 percent from roughly USD 600 million in FY18 to USD 1.6 billion in FY23. Fantasy sports, in particular, have piqued the interest of Indian and foreign investors, in addition to generic games that incorporate gambling.

TIME TO REWRITE NEW LAWS, TIME FOR REFORM TO REFORM!!

Given this context, it is critical for stakeholders in the online gaming industry to be aware of India’s policy structure. List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Indian Constitution contains the areas of sports, betting, and gambling; hence online gaming policies fall under state legislative jurisdiction. The Public Gambling Act (PGA), 1867, is a colonial-era statute still in effect and has been implemented by numerous states, notably Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi. Under respective gaming laws, some states have implemented legislation to govern gaming and gambling activities in their territory. These state laws are based on the PGA outlined above, with some variations.

Regions like Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, and Goa have placed acceptable limits, permitting activities based on skill rather than chance. These state laws have been altered to provide police forces extra authority in search and seizure operations. Furthermore, several states have made betting or gambling a cognizable offence, allowing police to intervene without the need for a magistrate’s consent. On the other hand, states including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka have outlawed online betting and gaming.

Many judicial decisions have been made on the terms ‘chance’ and ‘talent,’ with our courts declaring that sports that need skill rather than a chance to win do not fall within betting or gambling. On the other hand, recent legislative developments suggest that they are motivated by a fear of the hazards posed by Internet gambling. Overall, PGA-based regulations aim to make gambling a punishable offence not subject to bail to limit the public danger caused by online gaming. In Public Prosecutor Vs. Vraj Lal Sheth [6](1945), the Madras High Court, clarified that gaming only involves skill, betting, or laying bets. Including the possibility of winning or losing a chance. the occurrence of an unpredicted event.

“According to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, online games are socially compulsive, published in 2019”[7]. If their gaming/betting becomes addictive, habitual gamers/bettors may fail to take sufficient breaks. Protracted sessions of this activity can result in difficulties that impair their general well-being. They may, for example, have a hazy vision, a stereotyped mentality (as portrayed in numerous sports), a lack of physical activity, and a decrease in longevity. Furthermore, some online games represent women using sexual stereotypes. This leads to erroneous and unjust training of gamers, particularly men, which can impact their attitudes outside the virtual world. It alters societal male-female dynamics and exacerbates social gender inequalities.

Tax evasion or terror funding under the presence of gaming revenues booked through betting is possibly due to a lack of central rules governing such operations and systemic vulnerabilities. Stringent rules are needed to protect our society’s most vulnerable members, including children and women. We need adequate regulatory norms, such as age-verification procedures, parental controls, and risk-flagged systems, to reduce the negative consequences of Internet gaming on minors.

It is not unreasonable to point out that existing colonial-era legislation does not suit the needs of the quickly digitizing world, as it lacks clarity on ‘online gaming.’ As a result, it is critical to create a comprehensive legislative framework to meet today’s societal expectations. This would be in line with the Law Commission of India’s recommendation in Report No. 276 of July 2018, titled “Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting in India.” Finally, while online gaming and betting are legal in India, they are subject to state-level prohibitions. So, to encourage due diligence, good governance, and public order, we must restructure and revise the law.

CONCLUSION

Youth participation through gaming has recently gained popularity; notably, during Lockdown, gaming was one of the primary sources of pleasure for most of us. One of the many aspects of our life that the pandemic has altered is how we entertain ourselves. The rising usage of playing online games has been underestimated due to the development of OTT platforms and the rise in watching hours. “From pre-Covid levels, the average time spent playing online games has increased by almost 65%”[8]. This operational definition challenge is what makes playing internet games valid. Games of skill are generally accepted throughout the nation, but games of chance are often seen as betting, immoral, and illegal. Each state has its unique set of laws and guidelines since gambling is a practice governed by the state. While online gaming and betting are legal in India, they are subject to state-level prohibitions. So, to encourage due diligence, good governance, and public order, we must restructure and revise the law.

Author(s) Name: Shreya Kumari (Xavier Law School, XIM University)

Reference(s):

[1] tathit.com. N.p., Web. 22 Jun. 2022. <https://www.tathit.com/online-gaming-what-is-it>.

[2] Allen, Knowing the World of Online Gaming, Apr 18, 2022, <https://bharatstories.com/knowing-the-world-of-online-gaming/>

[3] Allen, Knowing the World of Online Gaming, Apr 18, 2022, <https://bharatstories.com/knowing-the-world-of-online-gaming/>

[4] Shivam Gupta, “All you need to know about communication surveillance laws in India.” blog.ipleaders.in. ip Leaders, 26 Sep. 2022. Web. 22 Jun. 2022. <https://blog.ipleaders.in/all-you-need-to-know-about-communication-surveillance-laws-in-india-2>

[5] India – Regulating Online Gaming: A Moral Dilemma, 15 November 2021, Web 22 June 2022 <https://conventuslaw.com/report/india-regulating-online-gaming-a-moral-dilemma/>

[6] The Public Prosecutor v Verajlal Sheth, (1945) 1 MLJ 163

[7]“Internet Gaming Disorder.” meritworld.com. N.p., Web. 22 Jun. 2022. <https://meritworld.com/gakkomom/internet-gaming-disorder>

[8] Michelle E. Lea, “Why Online Gambling In India Needs To Be Regulated”, Dec 28, 2021, <https://staticgamer.com/why-online-gambling-in-india-needs-to-be-regulated/>