The government of Rajasthan state is moving to regulate rather than ban online skill gaming, a seeming reversal of policy hinting at the influence of a growing number of pro-gaming court rulings across India.
In his February 23 budget speech, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told the state legislature that the government will “regulate” online skill gaming with stakes.
Gehlot did not expand on the comment, but the government’s decision reverses a commitment in March 2021 to ban the sector.
At the time, the government had prepared draft legislation to ban online and mobile gaming with stakes and introduce jail terms for operators and customers.
However, five months later the Rajasthan High Court dismissed a lawsuit requesting a ban on fantasy sports, even crediting peak body the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports’ regulatory role as a capable industry self-enforcement mechanism.
E-Gaming Federation CEO Sameer Barde pointed to the potential of Rajasthan, one of the country's largest states, with 80m people, to lead the way in skill gaming’s push for wider regulation.
“The industry is very upbeat that Rajasthan could become the first state in India to introduce a progressive regulatory regime for the online skill gaming sector, which has been operating in a regulatory vacuum for a long time.”
“With the right support, the online skill gaming sector can propel a second software revolution in India,” he said.
“It already directly employs close to 50,000 people and creates meaningful jobs for a lot of young engineers and other professionals.”
Online skill gaming — with various restrictions — is legal in the small northeastern states of Sikkim, Nagaland and Meghalaya.
Gehlot’s remarks followed a budget announcement in February by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who said Rajasthan will follow high-tech hub Karnataka state and establish an Animation, Visual Arts, Gaming and Comics (AVGC) task force to develop the sector.
Rajasthan’s apparent reversal is a notable milestone in the liberalisation of the online gaming sector, which has been super-charged by the pandemic and whose legal obstacles are beginning to wilt under a series of rulings by the Supreme Court and several state high courts.
Meanwhile, however, the Karnataka state government still remains intent on introducing a ban on online gaming with stakes, despite last month’s major setback in the High Court.