Govt should license online rummy platforms
In a bid to check the proliferation of the non-accredited fly-by-night operators in online rummy, government should consider setting up a licensing body, said Sameer Barde, CEO, The Online Rummy Federation (TORF), the self-regulatory body for online rummy gaming platforms in India. He said government should issue licenses to platforms to avoid defaulters and make the industry more accountable.

“There is also a need to have a licensing body which will put down processes for companies to obtain license to run an online rummy platform which will weed out non-eligible players right at the beginning," Barde said.

Barde's remarks come in the wake of the recent court matter where the Karnataka HC asked the state government to take a stand on online gamblingbetting. Karnataka high court directed the state government to decide on a representation made to it seeking to ban all forms of online bettings.

Barde also suggested setting up state commissions to regulate the booming industry.

“States need to consider setting up gaming commissions. These should have representation from the industry, law, home, IT and I&B ministries along with civil society. This would make a robust body which could lay down rules to ensure that companies that are operating have the right policies and are accountable to users. Globally, there are multiple models being followed in various countries for online gaming, I’m sure we will be able to devise one that works best for India," he noted.

The online rummy industry, with the size of around Rs. 4,000 crore, is growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30%. However, it continues to battle perception issues with multiple states banning online rummy platforms dubbing them as gambling.

To be sure, online gaming platforms are governed by the Public Gambling Act of India, 1867, according to which gambling is illegal in any form. However, these platforms argue that games such as rummy are games of skill, and do not amount to gambling. They have received validation by some High Courts that have recognised them as game of skill. However, states like Kerala along with Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have banned online rummy or other games played for stakes attributing various negative impact of online rummy addiction.

Barde said banning rummy platforms is not a solution. "Gambling tends to significantly go up in states where online rummy is banned because users tend to get attracted towards misleading unaccountable platforms. Many of these sites operate in countries where online gambling is legal, but regulations are not defined," he said. In case of disputes, legal action against such platforms becomes impossible as their locations or ownership is not known, he said.

Barde said that all its member platforms abide by a code of conduct put in place by TORF to maintain transparency and user protection and avoid the issue of gaming addiction.

Shivanandan Pare, CEO, Gaussian Network that runs online gaming platforms adda52 Rummy and adda52.com also stressed the need for a regulatory authority. "Rummy is India’s own family card game, played across the world by Indians. We believe it’s very important to have a regulatory body as it will give certainty and clarity for all stakeholders including the customers. It will also lead to a sector attracting investments and creating immense economic value," he added.

Source: www.livemint.com, April 20, 2021