India plans federal oversight of all real-money online gambling sources, document

NEW DELHI, Dec 4 (Reuters) – India’s planned regulation of online gambling will apply to all real-money gambling, according to a government document after the prime minister’s office overruled a proposal to regulate only games of skill and omit gambling, according to three sources.

The much-anticipated regulations will shape the future of India’s gaming sector, which research firm Redseeer estimates will be worth $7 billion by 2026, dominated by real-money gaming. Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital have backed Indian startups Dream11 and Mobile Premier League, known for fantasy cricket, in recent years.

An Indian body tasked with drafting the regulation in August proposed a new body to decide whether a game involves skill or chance and then have games of skill governed by proposed federal rules that would include registration requirements, know-your- Customer norms and a complaint request redress mechanism.

Gambling – seen as similar to gambling, which is largely banned across India – should fall under the purview of individual state governments, which would be free to regulate, Reuters previously reported.

However, at a government meeting on Oct. 26, an official from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office disagreed with such a distinction and called for expanded oversight of all types of games, according to the meeting’s confidential minutes, verified by Reuters.

Distinguishing games as skill or chance has not been easy due to a lack of legal clarity and conflicting court decisions, the record quoted the official as saying, adding that “online gaming can be considered as an activity/service without distinction”.

The definition of games has been controversial in India. For example, India’s Supreme Court says that the card game rummy and certain fantasy games are skill-based and legal, while different state courts have held different views on games like poker.

Modi’s office and the IT ministry, which drafts the rules, did not respond to a request for comment.

Three people directly involved in the rulemaking process, including two government officials in New Delhi, told Reuters that the federal administration’s rules will give broader oversight over all types of gaming, while state governments retain the power to regulate gambling or gaming completely ban chance.

The drafting of the new rules comes amid growing concerns that the proliferation of such games, particularly among young people, has led to addiction and financial loss, with some reported cases of suicide.

One of the government sources said Modi’s government remains concerned about a possible addiction to such platforms.

The government panel’s August report had recommended that new rules should include so-called “addiction measures” such as regular warnings and advice and setting deposit and withdrawal limits.

Adaptation of Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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