Introduction: Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) Announces to Centre Government to Plan to Certify Permissible Online Games-
In a recent update to the notification released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on April 6, MeitY has requested gaming entities to establish self-regulatory organisations (SROs) within a timeframe of 30 days or a maximum of 90 days from the date of the notification, which is April 6, 2023. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has further announced that the central government will certify which online games are permissible until the SROs are officially established. The intention behind establishing SROs is to assist intermediaries, such as Apple or Google, in determining what constitutes a permitted online game, but the SRO will take 2-3 months to complete. In the meanwhile, the Central government will step in and determine what is a permissible online game.
Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021
Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Amendment Rules, 2023-
By enacting these rules, the Indian government has taken decisive action to protect Indian gamers and their financial resources against scams and fraud. The rules also serve to promote responsible gaming while preventing young and vulnerable users from being exposed to indecent or abusive content.
Amendment Rules developed the concept of a “Permissible online real money game.” This designation is reserved for games that have passed a review process conducted by a self-regulatory body (SRB). Amendment rules indicate that Online Gaming Intermediaries must ensure that they do not permit any third party to host non-permissible online real money games on their platforms. This development is important because it empowers us to distinguish between legitimate and illicit real money games.
The Amendment Rules define an online gaming provider as an “intermediary” under the Information Technology Act of 2000, creating a separate classification called ‘Online Gaming Intermediary’.
Central government to certify what is an ‘Online Permissible Game’-The industry has been wondering what games come under wagering and will be banned. So, until the SROs are officially established, the government, in the interim, will certify what is a permissible game, what is wagering, and what is not wagering. Games that involve elements of wagering are going to be barred. The new regulations prohibit wagering on any outcome, whether in skill-based or chance-based games. Hence gaming applications involving wagering and betting apps will be barred.
Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs)-
According to the new regulations by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), online gaming intermediaries must establish a Self-Regulatory Body (SRO) to approve games offered to users over the Internet. The SRO must be registered with the Ministry and develop a framework to ensure compliance with the IT Rules 2021 objectives. An ‘online game’ can be registered by the SRO if it meets specific criteria, which include that the game is offered by an online gaming intermediary that is a member of the self-regulatory body, the game is not containing any content harmful to India’s interests, and complying with all relevant Indian regulations. If these requirements are met, the intermediary can display a visible registration mark indicating its registration with the self-regulatory authority.
MeitY found that with the rapid growth of the gaming industry, the real money gaming (RMG) sector had to be regulated properly. Rules framed must be properly implemented to stop gambling, betting, and wagering apps.
The IT Rules 2021, along with the Amendment Rules 2023, are created to take concrete action to curb the proliferation of gambling, betting, and wagering apps in India. These rules empower to issue of directives to ban specific apps that facilitate or promote such activities. The app ban directive allows the government to take decisive action by blocking access to these apps, making them unavailable for download or use within the country. This measure is aimed at curbing the negative impact of gambling, betting, and wagering on individuals and society, including issues related to addiction, financial loss, and illegal activities. Rules aim to actively combat the spread and influence of such apps and provide a safer online environment for gaming users.
The self-regulatory body in the context of online gaming will have the authority to grant membership to gaming intermediaries, register online games, develop a framework for regulation, interact with the Central Government, address user complaints, report instances of non-compliance, and take necessary actions to safeguard online gaming users.
Author: Neeraj Soni, Intern – Policy and Advocacy, CyberPeace