It has been recently reported by an Indian Daily, that ASCI (Advertisements Standards Council of India) may introduce guidelines to provide a streamlined regulatory framework to ascertain that online games involving real money are being offered in a responsible manner. The advent of clear regulatory guidelines for advertisements by online gaming portals may be beneficial for the online gaming portals to impart clarity regarding the permitted mode of offering online games while aiming to safeguard the interests of the gamers who may be misled otherwise.
Online Gaming- On high rise!!
Mobile phones and handheld devices have now become an indispensable part of the lifestyle of people belonging to almost all walks of life and varied economic backgrounds. Such devices have not only connected people globally for communication but have also become a source of other services such as commercial transactions, banking, education, entertainment, etc.
With the penetration of internet connectivity in every nook and cranny of India, the pleasures of Online Gaming can be derived by anyone from anywhere. India has been reported to be one of the countries with the highest number of game downloads in 2019. India has acquired wide-scale popularity with a market value of more than USD 500 million in 2020 and an expected increase of USD 1.1 billion by 2021. With the ongoing restrictions and social distancing mandates, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are opting for different home-bound sources of entertainment, which has been beneficial for the gaming industry as several gaming portals such as Paytm First Games and Gamerji have reported a 200% and 50% increase in their users of online gaming portals over March 2020. Over half a million daily active gamers are reported to be spending 30- 45 minutes on gaming platforms.
As the online gaming industry is expanding its wings, the online gaming portals need to ensure that they opt for proper advertisement strategies to promote their games. With the expansion of internet services, the modes of advertisements by online gaming portals are no longer limited to print, radio, television commercials but now extend to online media including social media portals.
Role of advertisements
Advertisements have been an age-old form of communication informing about the different types of products and services being offered. Not only do the advertisements help in the dissemination of information about the products or services, but they also help in convincing and thus attracting the customers and maximize the revenue generation.
Regulations monitoring broadcasting of advertisements in India
The advertisements in India are regulated by the Government as well as authorities such as the Advertising Standards Council of India (hereinafter referred to as “ASCI”) thereby preventing any prohibited content from being displayed in any advertisement.
- The Code for Self-Regulation formulated by ASCI requires the advertisements to adhere to fair and just legal practices and ensure compliance to norms, including but not limited to, being based on honest representations, not being be offensive to the public, not encourage any harmful/ hazardous substances, must encourage fair competition, etc.
- Specific to the gaming industry, online skill games with stakes are often confused with gambling activities operation of which is not legal in India. The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 read with Section 79(2) the Information Technology Act, 2000 requires ‘intermediaries’ like internet service providers, network service providers, search engines, telecom operators, etc. not to host or transmit any content which inter alia relates to or encourages gambling (Rules 3(2)(b), Rule 3(4)). Therefore, it is of extreme importance to clarify that the online games being offered for real-time money do not fall within the purview of gambling.
- Gaming falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the respective State laws.: Several States in India such as Assam, Odisha, Telangana, etc. do not allow the offering of games of skills with stakes. Therefore, it is essential that neither the skill games for money (including the online games) are offered in the States prohibiting them nor are the advertisements indicating their availability to the users resident thereof, be made.
While the new guidelines may prove helpful to online gamers in establishing transparency in respect to the risks associated while playing for real money, online gaming portals must clearly indicate compliance to accepted principles of law, including but not limited to, clearly specifying the permitted age of the gamers (individuals below the age of 18 years would not be offered to play games for real money on their portal), incorporation of appropriate disclaimers on the portal, before the online games for real money are offered by the online gaming portals.
Read more about online gaming and related laws in India here.