India's Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill, 2022, which awaits adoption at the Lok Sabha, looks like it has taken a lot of ideas from the currently active legislation on gambling in the United Kingdom.
The Bill was introduced in the House of People on April 1, 2022 by adv. Dean Kuriakose, a member of parliament representing the state of Kerala from the Indian National Congress.
Most notably, the proposed Bill, which is intended to extend to the whole of India, envisages the creation of an Online Gaming Commission by the Central Government and a licensing regime for gaming websites and servers.
India's gaming authority is to be mandated to oversee the functioning of online gaming websites, to suggest appropriate measures to control or curb illegal online gaming, and to grant, suspend and revoke licenses.
The Commission is also to be vested with broad powers to make rules for carrying out the purposes of the Gaming Regulation Act in consultation with the Central Government. The rules may pertain to license fees and applications, keeping accounts, fines for violations, notices to be displayed on gaming websites, restrictions and conditions, including age, for employees and players, as well as for the provision of credit facilities by Licensees, and any other matter which is required or may be prescribed.
Similarly, the British Gambling Act has entrusted the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) to regulate and license gambling in the country, but the UKGC is responsible for overseeing both land-based and online gambling establishments and businesses.
Contrary to the very similar general outline of the Indian draft legislation on online gaming and the regulatory framework in the UK, there are more differences between the two laws. Since these are most evident in the important field of customer protection, India should get even more influence from Britain and other European countries when adopting its gaming legislation in order to achieve a truly safer gaming environment for desi players.
"At the end of the day, regulations are there to protect people, and it's proven that countries that regulate gambling aren't only able to ensure that players are using a safe product but are also ensuring that licensed operators are contributing to the welfare of the country in the means of tax and licensing fees," as stated by Felicia Wijkander, Chief Editor atSevenJackpots, one of India's most prominent casino comparison platforms, in an article discussing the proposed Online Gaming Bill.
Whereas the emphasis of the UK regulation falls on responsible gambling and honest advertising, with measures including strict consumer protection and age verification protocols, a prohibition to gamble with credit cards, and restrictions on segmentation of VIP and high-roller offers, among others, India's Bill in its current form is not displaying such a focus.
"The current bill is also missing a bunch of player protection aspects. There is no mention of KYC (Know Your Customer) or SOI (Source Of Income) processes, data protection, or responsible gambling practices. All aspects that we believe should come first when regulating a market," writes Wijkander.
The scope of the UK Gambling Act, as its name suggests, is limited to gambling which enables it to intervene with precision between operators and players and regulate the societal effects of such activities. The Indian draft legislation, on the other hand, attempts to place all gaming genres under one umbrella and risks being ineffective by overdoing its purpose. If the Indian parliament decides to adopt the law, politicians should carefully weigh and consider this and some other aspects.
"In short, an online casino shouldn't be regulated in the same way as, for example, a gaming platform offering a first-person shooter game with optional real money features. These games are widely different, and trying to fit them under one umbrella is a recipe for disaster," Wijkander points out.
One major omission of the proposed Online Gaming Bill is that it includes no anti-money laundering (AML) mechanisms. Other areas where the Bill could use more influence from European gambling legislation include the introduction of a national self-exclusion program, as well as gaming and betting limits.