All real money online games will be fully supervised by the government.
In the past few years, deaths due to loss of money in real money online games have made it to the headlines of various newspapers. A lot of citizens of a country get addicted to these games and lose so much money that at the end of the day, they feel like death is the only option that they are left with. These incidents drove The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to prepare a report which talks about precautions which firms must take relating to games.
There has been a lack of regulatory framework for governing online gaming companies. There is no grievance redressal mechanism. Where will any user complain so that their problems can be assisted for resolution of complaints and grievances in a timely, effective and efficient manner that will satisfy all parties involved? Moreover, there is no implementation of player protection measures, protection of data and IPR, and prohibition of misleading advertisements. The report attends to all these concerns.
Due to this, there was also a pre-requisition involved requiring differentiation of games of skill and games of chance. After the differentiation of the same, skill games shall be governed by planned federal rules that call for registration requirements, know-your-customer (KYC) norms and grievance redress mechanism. Chance games – considered parallel to gambling, which is mostly banned across India – were set to stay under the purview of individual state governments which would be free to regulate them. The lack of legal clarity and a contrast in decisions of the court, complexities were faced while drawing lines between game of chance and game of skill. Defining games is indeed very contentious.
These rules will give the federal administration a broader oversight on all sorts of games while state governments will remain empowered to inflict out-and-out bans on gambling, or games of chance. The drafting of the new regulations comes in the midst of growing concerns that the production of such games, particularly among young people, had led to addiction and financial losses, with some reported cases of suicide.
The MeitY is close to finalizing the policy to regulate online gaming. It is likely to mandate an age verification mechanism and know-your-customer norms for all real-money games in the country. But there are loopholes to everything. Adding false information is very common these days. Sometimes, children add wrong age to gain access of certain apps which they are not allowed to use. To avoid the same, it has been recommended by an inter-ministerial task force at the centre that gaming companies should use facial recognition technologies (FRT) in order to verify the age of players to address the issues related to addiction, especially among children.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) task force prepared a reports which consists of new gaming regulations with recommendations from various entities such as Union Ministries of Home, Sports and Youth Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, Finance, Law, and Consumer Affairs. This report covers broad arenas so as to address concerns in as wide a range as possible. The report addresses how financial wounds due to real money online games have driven people to kill themselves in various states, for instance in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and other parts of India.
Impact on individuals involved in games of chance
The after effects of gambling aren’t limited to the loss of money; it has many facets to it. Getting way too much involved in games of chances can have severe consequences for such individuals in familial, social, emotional, mental, economical and physical arenas. These games are about emotions. One continues due to the rush of adrenaline they get after betting their luck. But there is also regret, disappointment, and stress when one fails at it. And this is the point from where one starts feeling down without knowing the reason behind it. The person may become short tempered, easily annoyed and simply stressed.
It also hampers a person’s self-esteem, relationships, physical and mental health, work performance and social life. It can harm not only the person who gambles but also family, friends, workplaces and communities. Sometimes people get way too addicted to gambling that they spend their savings on it leading to reduced savings. There are also times when they do not have money to spend on their families and loved ones. The loss of money obviously leads to stress henceforth interfering with their performance in academics or workplaces. Job loss is very high among gambling addicts. Gambling addiction may lead to missing work, or coming to work distracted. Gambling addictions will therefore intervene with work relations, promotions, and employment.
In some cases, when the affected person’s loved ones try to make them understand that it is not right, they do not understand and that is exactly where issues in their relationships and bonds begin. The gambler may start acting annoyed, display irritable behavior, may start hiding things and indulge in arguments. Such things interfere in relationships, creating a fuss among them. Calls from bill collectors and creditors asking for money in themselves are so embarrassing that they would fuel fights in families. Children of gamblers are also the ones who get affected in the process. They experience emotional neglect and abandonment while their parent gets involves in it.
Some people may even turn to use of substances like alcohol, drugs etc. to cope with the loss of money. It should be noted that this could lead to an additional addiction which has its own effects on a person further amplifying their problems faced in daily life. Financial devastation is unavoidable. People with a gambling addiction will go to extreme measures to get money to gamble. Many people eventually resort to stealing, taking out large loans, or other desperate means that are out-of-character.
Moving to physical effects, since gambling leads to stress and depression, it will show on a person’s physical health. Depression, stress and anxiety could lead to sleep deprivation resulting in a pale skin, weight gain or loss, acne, and dark circles. Also, this sleep deprivation could further turn into insomnia.
Impact on children
Children merit specific protections, including legal protection, due to their physical and mental immaturity. Now, always acting in the best interests of the child is seen as a fundamental legal principle. The Committee on the Rights of the Child infers this as “the obligation to ensure that the interests of the child have been assessed and taken as a primary consideration in decisions and actions taken by the private sector, including those providing services, or any other private entity or institution making decisions that concern or impact on a child.”
Gaming today has become more like a mainstream activity since individual play is accompanied by a multiplayer formats so that youngsters can socialize, play, relax and interact with one another. The amount of time that children spend in the digital world is an increasingly debated topic. It raises concerns among some on health implications of excessive use or over training in competitive scenarios, for example aggression in children due to gaming.
Children’s right to non-discrimination is an umbrella principle, verifying that children should not be distinguished, barred, constrained or given priority on any ground, including race, color, sex, language or religion. This encompasses exposure to unsafe or unfriendly environments that discourage participation, including in games.
Why FRT may not be brought into force
There has been a lot of debate over using Facial Recognition Technologies as a source to verify age of a person. When California passed the age-appropriate code to protect the data, well being and privacy of children using online platforms, LGBTQ+ groups raised their voice stating that using technologies like this would lead to the surveillance of children, especially the ones belonging to a minority group.
Using FRT for age-verification can also interfere with a person’s right to anonymity while online. Although ensuring that people do not commit suicide owing to online betting is an important affair, it also has to be ensured that while preventive measures are being taken, they do not violate basic human rights like privacy.
These regulations will shape the future of India’s gaming sector. The new rules should include so-called “de-addiction measures” as well. The emphasis could be put on periodic warnings and advisories and fixing deposit and withdrawal limits, especially when it comes to games of chance. There is a need of a new federal online gaming law, which will provide regulatory flexibility “with punishment provisions, along with blocking powers, for the government against prohibited gaming formats”. The new legal framework would apply to both free and pay-to-play skill games.
“On the aspect of prohibiting games of chance (e.g. gambling websites or apps) being played online, the proposed Digital India Act can include it in the list of prohibited user harms that will not be permitted,” the report stated. State governments already find it “difficult to implement and monitor geo-fencing measures” to make sure that no user in their region is accessing any illegal forms of gambling or gaming. New regulations will bring “regulatory clarity, certainty and investments for the sector.”