Online Gaming: Legal and Social Implications

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Overview

Online gaming or any online platform that offers engagement has flourished in the so-called ‘new normal’ society. This is not only the case with the youngsters but every age group. There’s altogether a different world out there inside our phones and laptops. And this world, apparently, has a lot more to offer than the unstimulated world we live in. But, it comes with its cost and consequences. In this article, we will be talking about the validity, usage, and repercussions of online gaming platforms, in detail from a legal and social point of view.

Judicial Pronouncements in this regard

There have been several cases across the country challenging the validity and legality of gaming applications in India. Here, we need to understand that when we talk about online gaming particularly, there is no law prevailing in the country. The position on which these apps and platforms are challenged is whether they amount to online gambling or not. And in this question, the test that is generally looked upon is whether the game in question is a game of chance or a game of skill.

One of the very famous online fantasy games Dream11’s legality was challenged in 2019. The Bombay High Court, in this matter, said that the process of making up the team, which is done in this app, is a game of skill and not a game of chance. Also, it said that the app does not involve any service in particular, so it cannot be brought under the Goods and Services Act. 

In another case before the Madras High Court, challenging the validity of Online Rummy. The court held that the game was not skill-based as it was based on certain predefined algorithms. It was also noticed that the people who were playing these games often fell prey to their data getting manipulated by the databases in it. The court here also distinguished that the online game of rummy cannot be equated with offline rummy. The offline game of rummy requires skills, unlike the online platform which can become a space of manipulation, cheating, and randomness.

In a recent case before the Bombay High Court, the question regarding the game of LUDO was put forth. The predominant question was whether the “chance predominates skill or skill predominates chance” in the game. It was argued that the chances of a three-year-old winning the game are the same as an elder person, making it a game of chance. Further, it was said that the involvement of stakes in this game brings it under the head of gambling. The decision on this plea is still pending before the court of law.

These judgments do not show any discrepancies as such, but when poker was put forth in a question, the Gujarat and Bombay High Court declared it as a game of chance. But the Karnataka High Court said it will be covered under the game of skill.

Current Position across India

There is no uniformity in the rules governing online gambling and betting across India. Each state has the discretion to make its own laws on this matter. As an effect of which states including Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have banned the games that have real money transactions. Tamil Nadu permits games that have skills involved in them. While Kerela has banned online rummy that includes stakes. Other states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, etc. follow the pre-independence law i.e. Public Gambling Act, 1867.

The ambiguity and inconsistency in the stance of different states and the absence of clear laws on this matter have been posing a problem for the companies and the public as a whole. Companies have to look upon a lot of issues before investing in certain gaming applications. They are often encountered with the threats of legal proceedings against them.

Social Impact of Online Gaming

First of all, in the absence of uniform and proper regulatory laws and bodies, the gamer is always at a risk of being exploited by the companies and apps. And since, there is no legal framework governing it, the suits that might be filed by them would not hold any ground. Other than this, the endorsement of these games by popular personalities has led to a huge user base.

And as a consequence of this, there have been several petitions regarding the suicide committed by the users due to these games. It has been validly argued that any online gaming or gambling or any other platform is obviously designed keeping in mind the human behavioral traits. And because of that, we tend to get addicted to such platforms. But such apps leading to a grave consequence such as suicide should always be looked upon with utter seriousness.

Conclusion

With a plethora of cases and questions with regards to the online gaming platforms, it is the need of the hour to set up a uniform regulatory authority and rules which look upon this matter seriously. Caps on the age limit of the gamers have been imposed, but the mechanism to follow these caps has not been set up. Other steps like putting a cap on the stakes can be tried and applied. The online gaming industry in India has a huge potential and it can be used to its fullest by applying and enacting the rules which are lacking in the industry now.

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