A congress MP, Dean Kuriakose from Kerala, a Lok Sabha member, submitted a private bill that proposes to set up an online casino gaming commission. The purpose of the commission would be to regulate the online gaming industry. The body would have the authority to produce, in consultation with the central government, the procedures and rules for obtaining online gaming licenses. The commission would also dictate the conditions under which persons are employed by, for example, an online casino operator. Or how a user would be allowed to play in a licensed online casino, how much time they are allowed to spend, and how much money they’d be allowed to lose during specific time intervals.
This is not the first a Lok Sabha member has put forward a bill of this kind. In December 2018, Dr Shashi Tharoor introduced a bill called “The Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud)”. That particular bill was mainly aimed to cover sports fraud and betting. That bill was slightly more comprehensive but only covered sports, whereas the bill from Mr Kuriakose covers all aspects of online gaming, including that of online casino games. However, the bill by Dr Tharoor from 2018 lapsed before reaching its final stages in relation to the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha ahead of the general elections back in 2019.
The reason why bills on this topic are recurring is because of the extent of online gaming in India. While it’s difficult to gauge the value of the online gaming industry in India, it was estimated to be valued at 79 billion Indian rupees in 2012. That was an increase from the 65 billion Indian rupees the previous year. By 2024, the industry is expected to be worth over 150 billion Indian rupees. The reason why it’s difficult to gauge the value and appreciate the number of Indians active in online casinos today is that there are many local bans on gambling. At the same time, it is easy for an Indian player to bypass the bans by playing in foreign licensed online casinos offered in India. These foreign online casinos are established in India but are hosted and legally licensed abroad in countries like Malta and Curaçao, they accept players from India and offer all the local payment solutions and games. Regulations would not change too much from a player perspective, only for the better if they were to include players’ protection like KYC (Know Your Customer) and SOI (Source of Income). But that was not included in the submitted bill.
The draft from Mr Kuriakose would introduce greater control and introduce safeguards for players, while also creating tax revenues for the online gaming activities. With the situation today, billions of Rupees in taxes seep out of the country and into the hands of foreign companies and states. Because online gaming has such a big impact on the nation, it is necessary that it gets regulated and guarantee the safety of players and workers. A comprehensive regulatory framework would also limit the number of tax revenues being lost to foreign hands.