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The All India Gaming Federation reinforces its resolve towards responsible gaming

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The All India Gaming Federation reinforces its resolve towards responsible gaming
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  • AIGF strengthens its advisory panel with the induction of three new experts including Justice Vikramajit Sen, Fatema Agarkar & Jhulan Goswami
  • The gaming industry fueled by technology is the biggest past-time globally and India is the next frontier
  • As millions of players get on gaming platforms, AIGF emphasizes on Player Protection & Responsible Gaming

 The COVID-19 outbreak and the nationwide lockdown have had a pronounced impact across industries. Besides stalling economic activity and lowering consumption, the pandemic has also led to behavioral and lifestyle changes in people.

The time as well as the average spends per user (ARPUs) for online gaming is rising significantly making gaming the biggest past-time globally as quoted by top economist Ruchir Sharma from Morgan Stanley, in January this year. The online transaction based skill gaming industry in India grew at a robust rate of 30% while the ARPUs went up by a whopping 41% in 2019, as per the FICCI Frames 2020 report compiled by Ernst & Young. In view of these trends the importance for self-regulation for this Industry cannot be emphasized enough.

Mr. Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation states, “Since its inception over four years ago, the objective of AIGF was centered around bringing recognition to the sunrise sector of transaction based online skill gaming. One of the key deliverables for us was to set up a robust self-regulation mechanism that would serve the needs of the Industry by means of good governance”.

Speaking on the initiative, Mr. Landers mentions,AIGF skill games charter was released in 2018 and was based on the four foundations of integrity, legality, global best practices and good governance. The charter focusses entirely on player protection, responsible gaming including guidelines for advertising.”  Through the adoption of principles and the disciplinary process, the AIGF seeks to build a self-regulatory community and facilitative ecosystem for the offer of online transactional games of skill in a transparent and fair manner, with due regard for consumer and stakeholder interests.

With the surge in the transactional based online skill ecosystem and the addition of newer business verticals like digital eSports, the AIGF felt the need to strengthen its Advisory Board and has onboarded eminent experts from diverse backgrounds of the judiciary, education and sports.

On welcoming the new advisory Board members, Mr. Landers professes, “We are privileged to have strengthened our advisory panel at AIGF and are very honored to have eminent Justice Vikramajit Sen, a Former Judge of the Supreme Court & Ex – Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, Ms. Fatema Agarkar, leading educationist & Founder of the Agarkar Centre of Excellence (ACE) combing sports and education, and Ms. Jhulan Goswami, Indian International Cricketer and the former captain of the Indian National women’s cricket team join us and offer their expert guidance to us and the industry.”

Justice Vikramajit Sen states, “As online transaction based gaming has grown by 30% over last year, self-regulation for this ever expanding Industry is extremely important. To overcome the blurred lines, the AIGF Skill Games Charter provides the very foundation for responsible gaming, user integrity, player protection, and best practices for member operators to ensure ethical practices to safeguard the consumer interest.

To further contribute to the process, I am excited to be on the advisory panel of the AIGF, which has vetted the charter and play a role in guiding the Industry body and its stakeholders forward as the sector grows.”

Elaborating on the importance of Digital sports gaming, Ms. Fatema Agarkar states “I am glad to be a part of AIGF’s advisory panel and for me, the sheer potential that e-sports enjoys lies in its reach, bringing communities together, enabling an alternative to physical sports, working with key life skills such as decision making, critical thinking and logic not to mention attitudes of discipline, responsible digital citizenship!”

“There’s cognitive development and participation avenues that open up given its tech base and therefore obvious reach beyond the four walls, and when structured with science and responsible protocols, the sheer scale of possibilities it opens up cannot be emphasized enough. With AIGF’s well-structured Responsible Gaming Charter, we will put the right checks in place and treat it with the respect it deserves!” Ms. Agarkar further added.

Elated to be part of AIGF’s advisory board, Ms. Jhulan Goswami said, “It is heartening to see that millions of gamers are participating in online formats including cricket and that this ecosystem is growing rapidly. It is an honor to be on the board alongside such eminent people

And makes me extremely happy to see the industry come together to adopt the guidelines of the AIGF charter to ensure best practices and player protection for the online Skill Gaming Industry.”

 

Asia

PAGCOR PHOTO CONTEST DRAWS 2K EARLY REGISTRANTS IN 1ST WEEK

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THE Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) today reported a robust response to its much-anticipated annual photography contest after close to 2,000 individuals registered to join in the first five days after the contest launch on February 15.

PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco said the state gaming firm’s official website (www.pagcor.ph) also logged an 85.49% increase in page views compared to the previous week after the 2024 PAGCOR Photography Contest opened.

“We also monitored a 73.43% increase in our website users after we announced the start of the photography competition,” the PAGCOR chief said.

“We are optimistic that with the bigger cash prizes, lower age requirement and the new drone category, we will entice more professional photographers and hobbyists to join and showcase their talent in this competition,” he said.

With this year’s theme, “Harvest Time”, the 2024 PAGCOR Photography Contest will highlight the Filipino’s strength of character, patience and hard work in the fields leading to and during the harvest season.

The contest also celebrates the dedication of farmers, fishermen and other producers whose labor ensures food security and sustenance for the nation.

“The summer months of April and May will be a colorful and festive season for the country, especially in the countryside. The fields are ripe for harvest, the trees are laden with fruits and the flowers are in full bloom,” Chairman Tengco said.

“We hope that our contest participants this year will be able to immortalize the remarkable and bountiful resources of the Philippines that some of us take for granted,” Chairman Tengco added.

PAGCOR has earmarked Php2.23 million for the competition’s cash prizes this year, demonstrating its commitment to recognize the outstanding work of Filipino photographers while promoting the country’s rich identity and traditions.

Entries may be submitted until July 31, 2024.

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Asia

Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?

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Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Dr Aruna Sharma, Practitioner Development Economist & Retd Secretary GoI

 

Could you provide insights into the current market potential for iGaming in India, and what key challenges do you anticipate the industry facing in the near future?

The popularity of online gaming as a form of entertainment in India has surged with the widespread availability of inexpensive smartphones and affordable internet access. Global investors, developers, and other industry stakeholders are keenly watching the growth story of the Indian online gaming industry which has witnessed a 28% CAGR between FY20-23 and holds a market valuation of ₹16,428 crores.

However, instead of direct contribution in the economic growth story of India the online gaming industry is contributing in terms of increasing revenue (direct and indirect tax) collection (year-on-year). Additionally, the sector has attracted budding tech developers and entrepreneurs by providing them employment opportunities and fueling innovation to keep up with the rising demand for AI and other such immersive gaming experiences.

After some crucial and elucidative changes in the regulatory and taxation policies by the government in 2023, one can hope that 2024 for iGaming will thin the clouds that are shadowing accelerated growth of iGaming in India. 2024 holds promise for iGaming in India. While full regulation may take time, positive court ruling and increased focus on non-RMG segments could cause a casual gaming boom, potentially unlocking a multi-billion dollar market. However, regulatory uncertainty and potentially high tax rates remain a hurdle for attracting investments and interest of other stakeholders in this growing market and industry.

 

What are the main challenges facing Indian iGaming and how different are these challenges within the different regions of India?

  • The government is focusing on reducing threats like false information, mental health problems, money laundering, and financial losses for users by bringing rules and regulations such as the IT Rules, establishing SROs and SRBs.
  • Adequate regulation, that is conducive to doing business, is needed, first of all, to protect the Indian players. Because in the current situation, Indians are being abused by countless nefarious parties. Checking and curbing the illegal gaming platforms and enhancing mechanisms to ensure increased user awareness and behaviour while indulging in online gaming.
  • A pressing concern that requires governments urgent attention is to put in place parameters that differentiate between games of skill and chance for taxation.
  • As a fallout of high and retrospective taxation the industry is facing job losses, advertising and spending cuts and reduced investments in research and innovations.

Additionally, policy and regulatory compliance for the platforms have become increasingly complex with both center and state governments legislating on the same subjects and multiple ministries regulating the industry.

 

Delve into the necessity for a regulatory framework that is both balanced and adaptable.

Unregulated framework where user base is large leads to spread of iGaming in gray market with all its vices. By regulating the iGaming industry, the government can unlock other positive outcomes, such as increased tax revenues, economic growth via attracting more foreign investment, job creation, and better consumer protection. A thorough regulatory framework will enable transparent parameters to distinguish and license the game of skill accordingly and rest will fall under game of chance.

Regulations always bring in transparency and ensure there is no misleading advertising or non-payment of legal taxes. Additionally, regulations such as the IT Amendment Rules, 2023 have ascertained a robust grievance redressal mechanism by setting up of the SRBs and SROs.

Further a balanced and stable regulatory framework could provide assurance and confidence to the international iGaming companies in paying taxes while doing business in a regulated and transparent market, create jobs, and invest in the country and its people. Thus, comprehensive regulations, that are conducive to doing business and protect the Indian players, who are being abused by countless nefarious parties are necessary in the current iGaming landscape.

Consequently, foreign iGaming companies operating legally have consistently demanded that the Indian government establish an adequate and stable regulation and taxation regime. Instead, the government has consistently chosen to unwisely prohibit it, thus pushing this whole industry underground. Furthermore, iGaming companies face unfair persecution and baseless lawsuits from India.

 

The new 28% GST on online gaming has produced divided opinions about the industry’s future in India. How has the industry reacted to it?

Industry initially panicked at the 28% tax, fearing slow growth and reduced investments. The partial relief, clarification on the regulatory compliances have brought cautious optimism. Smaller firms remain anxious, fearing the high rate still discourages players and favors larger businesses. Long-term impact depends on pending Supreme Court judgment on game classification and potential tweaks to the tax structure.

The applicability of a flat 28% tax on the total value of bets placed in online gaming, irrespective of whether they are games of skill or chance has upset the applecart that was moving smoothly with the evolution of agreed principles among SROs and the oversight by SRB with clear distinction of the regulatory body between Games of Skill (permissible games) with that of Games of Chance.

The matter is now being reviewed by a Group of Ministers (GoMs) comprising of officials from ministries such as the Home, Finance, MeitY, etc. to reconsider the GST and how to counter episodes of money laundering and other such scams and frauds.

 

Finally, what can we expect from Indian iGaming as a whole this year, if you were to sum it up in three key points?

It is expected that 2024 will set pace by bringing in clarity in rule making, consistency of rules, inculcating a more stable policy environment that enables India to not miss the bus of becoming a hub for developers. The iGaming industry is expected to tighten its grip for filling the digital divide, enabling learning of cognitive skills and enhance conscious citizen messaging to further tap into the positive side of iGaming.

Additionally, iGaming industry should leverage technologies like blockchain to further the purpose of transparency and tracking of digital payment as a technical solution and for permanent storage of records to curb money laundering. Alongside formulation of regulatory policies, a stricter implementation of policies such as IT Rules (establishing SRBs), mandatory KYC, and compliance with Advertisement Standard Council in India (ASCI) norms for iGaming industry need to be inculcated in ensuring safe and secure gaming platforms.

The future of the gaming industry holds promise of growth, however, there is still a hazard that due to absent market regulation and destructive policies, international iGaming companies shun India, sending an unwelcoming signal to many other potential foreign investors.

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Asia

2 PEOPLE CAUGHT OPERATING ILLEGAL ONLINE GAMING SITE

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Twelve people suspected of involvement in illegal online gaming operations were arrested today, February 16, in an exclusive Parañaque City subdivision after a month-long surveillance, according to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro H. Tengco said the arrests were made by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) and the Anti-Cybercrime Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) together with the PAGCOR monitoring team.

“The raiders were armed with a warrant to search, seize and examine operations of computer data against the suspects who were caught red-handed while operating the illegal online gaming platform https://www.tbb888.com or the Big Bet,” Chairman Tengco said.

The illegal gaming site has been operating games like slot machines, live casino, e-sports, among others. Authorities seized from the suspects eleven computer sets, 21 mobile phones, 2 ipads, 6 laptops and flash drives, according to the PAGCOR chief.

Onsite examination revealed that the confiscated gadgets contain evidence of the group’s illegal online activities, said PAGCOR Senior Vice President for Security and Monitoring Cluster Raul Villanueva.

The raid was conducted inside BF Northwest Subdivision, an affluent enclave whose residents include some of the most prominent political and business leaders in Parañaque.

Mr. Villanueva said cases will be filed against the suspects before the Parañaque Regional Trial Court.

“The operation was part of our unified efforts to intensify the fight against illegal online gambling because we have a marching order from PAGCOR Chairman Alejandro Tengco to put a stop to these illegal activities,” Mr. Villanueva said.

“We will continuously collaborate with law enforcement authorities such as the PNP and even the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency to put a stop to these,” he said.

“We advise the public to stop patronizing illegal online gaming sites and instead play on legal platforms to protect themselves. Unfortunantely, most of the victims of these illegal sites are Filipino bettors.

“We are also working closely with the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center under the Department of Information and Communications Technology because we have a lot more targets under surveillance,” he added.

According to Mr. Villanueva, close to 5,000 illegal online gaming sites were operating in the country at one time but 80% of these were already blocked.

“We need to consistently monitor and report them to authorities not only to protect the bettors but to also ensure that revenues from regulated gaming are channeled back to the government for its nation-building programs,” he said.

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