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Business News/ Industry / Online gaming self-regulation hits roadblock, Meity weighs direct control

Online gaming self-regulation hits roadblock, Meity weighs direct control

  • A decision to constitute a group of ministers to oversee a comprehensive regulatory framework for the online gaming industry may have been put on the back-burner

Minister of state for electronics and information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar . (PTI)

NEW DELHI :The process of setting up self-regulatory bodies (SRBs) for the online gaming industry has hit a stalemate, with the Union ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) now considering taking direct control of the approval mechanism for games and companies hosting them.

The process of setting up self-regulatory bodies (SRBs) for the online gaming industry has hit a stalemate, with the Union ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) now considering taking direct control of the approval mechanism for games and companies hosting them.

“There has been no progress on the appointment of self-regulatory bodies. We received only one application so far, and we didn’t like it," Union minister of state for electronics and information technology (IT) Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in an interview.

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“There has been no progress on the appointment of self-regulatory bodies. We received only one application so far, and we didn’t like it," Union minister of state for electronics and information technology (IT) Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in an interview.

A decision to constitute a group of ministers to oversee a comprehensive regulatory framework for the online gaming industry has also been put on the back burner, two senior officials with knowledge of the matter said on condition of anonymity, as discussions are still ongoing within Meity.

One of the officials said that the decisions were taken around the third week of December, following discussions within the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

On whether Meity may take over regulatory responsibilities, Chandrasekhar said the matter is currently under consideration, and a decision may be taken in the coming weeks.

On 6 April, Meity notified an amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which called for appointment of SRBs to approve entities that would be permitted to advertise and operate titles to Indian users. These bodies, as per the ministry’s suggestions at the time, were to be involved in regulating games that involve real money in transactions, and three of them were tentatively set to be appointed at the time.

However, Mint reported on 5 September that the appointment of these bodies had hit a roadblock, with at least three pitches for SRBs being fielded by Meity at the time.

Three people with knowledge of the matter said at the time that the IT ministry was reluctant to proceed with any of the applicants, owing to significant affiliation of each of the applicants with specific companies in the online gaming industry.

On potential conflict of interest, Chandrasekhar said, “We’ve been very clear that we didn’t want (the SRBs) to be industry-dominated. We won’t dilute the basic principles. We may consider that the government gives itself the power to determine permissibility in online gaming." Discussions, however, are tentative right now, the minister added.

“We are anyway doing our job by taking down whatever is not permissible. Therefore, we’re immediately banning any illegal betting app that is reported to us. However, how do we allow a much clearer framework for this process? We’d decided to give this to an SRB. But we don’t want an SRB to be hijacked by the industry. We haven’t decided yet that we would abrogate the power to determine permissibility that we’d given to SRBs, and give it to Meity to do it instead. But, we’re considering it at the moment," he said.

The initial idea of an SRB was seen to be a positive move, which could have legally certified certain online gaming firms to advertise on social media intermediary platforms in the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shouvik Das

Shouvik Das is a science, space and technology reporter for Mint and TechCircle. In his previous stints, he worked at publications such as CNN-News18 and Outlook Business. He has also reported on consumer technology and the automobile sector.
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