The esports athletes’ body has urged Tamil Nadu authorities to consider separate legislation for skill games and real-money games. India’s fragmented legal scene holds back gaming tech development and wastes public resources, experts insist.
All Games Are Not Created Equal
The eSports Players Welfare Association (EPWA) has sent a formal plea to the government of Tamil Nadu to reconsider their stance on imposing a blanket ban on paid online games. The EPWA Director, Shivani Jha, has given details on the players’ request to the government to recognize skill gaming as a distinct sport and regulate it separately from online games for real money.
The ban was reported as imminent by government sources, although Tamil Nadu has already failed with previous attempts at similar censorship. In 2021, the Madras High Court struck down amendments on the TN Gaming Act that prohibited traditional skill games like rummy and poker along with live casino games and even eSports when played for money.
The Gaming and Police Laws imposed unconstitutional limitations to personal liberties and business enterprises, the Court declared. Yet, TN legislators seem to prepare another round of blanket prohibitions.
The issue at hand is not so much related to the impossibility of governments to limit the cyberspace where players could always find mobile games and online slots. It is about the waste of resources that such bans incur. To gaming tech companies in India, on one hand, since they are unable to plan strategically their long-term development. Some would be forced to relocate, others may consider shutting down. Government agencies, on the other hand, conduct repeated investigations into something which has already been declared inefficient and unlawful.
Regulation Needed on Central Level
This time around, the Tamil Nadu authorities have set up an expert panel to study all angles to a possible prohibition, media outlets point out. Chaired by retired Justice K Chandru, the committee invited feedback from consumer groups, medical professionals and even gaming experts. Although no correlation has been found between online gaming and social and mental problems, the state government seems intent on proceeding with the ban.
Renowned chess Grandmaster Ankit Rajpara has stood up for the online gaming community, asking the Centre to intervene after years of legal uncertainty. Several states have legalized and regulated online gambling, about half of the nation has its government lottery, while skill games like poker, rummy and fantasy leagues have always been protected by Art.19 of the Union’s supreme law.
When States seem unable or unwilling to regulate the online gaming market, the Centre has the power to step in and set up rules for all concerned, in the national interest. India takes part in numerous skill gaming tournaments and gaming tech startups produce video games for both the domestic and global market.
Courts have urged local legislators to provide separate laws for skill and chance games, should they wish to regulate the domestic gaming scene at least. At this point, the multiple (and contrasting) gaming rules make it impossible for players to feel secure and companies to invest in their future.
Considering that present-day gaming means trans-state and international business operations, the Centre needs to look into the question sooner rather than later, market experts say.