Does ‘China Like’ Strict Rules On Gaming Industry Protect Gamers’ Rights?

Does ‘China Like’ Strict Rules On Gaming Industry Protect Gamers’ Rights?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has proposed and prepared a final report recommending the implementation of strict ‘China-like’ rules for gamers to regulate the Indian Esports industry. China’s gaming regulations are among the strictest globally, introduced to address health concerns, gaming addiction, academic performance, promoting social well-being, work-life balance, physical activities, and hobbies, reducing exposure to unappropriated content, and protecting the cultural and national identity of the country.

What New IT Rules to Be Imposed

The guidelines ban ‘Betting and gambling activities’ ‘under various State laws.’ ‘The rules cast an obligation on intermediaries, including social media platforms and app stores, to make reasonable efforts to not host, publish or share any online game’ without being verified by ‘an online gaming self-regulatory body (SRB) designated by the Central Government.’

Also, it ‘disallows intermediaries to host or display any advertisement or surrogate advertisement or promotion of an online game that is not a permissible online game.’ The rule introduces the ‘permissible online game’ concept that ‘allow only such online real money games in India that are verified by SRBs.’

‘The Central Government has the power to require such online games to be subject to the obligations under the rules as are applicable to online real money games.’

While addressing the addiction-related concerns the government plans to safeguard children and adults through ‘warning messages, monetary spending limit and time limit.’ The set of rules protects the Digital Nagriks ‘through parental controls and age-rating mechanism’ and protect ‘against the risk of gaming addiction, financial loss and fraud through measures such as repeated warning messages at higher frequency in long gaming session and provision to enable a user to exclude himself upon user-defined limits being reached for time or money spent.’

To corroborate ‘trusted online games’ ‘a demonstrable and visible mark of verification to be displayed mandatorily for all online games verified by SRBs.’ For that, SRB is to publish an ‘Updated list of all permissible online real money games verified by it, with the applicant details, dates and period of validity of verification, reasons of verification and the details of the suspension or revocation of verification.’

The regulations ‘ensure transparency and full accountability of online gaming intermediaries enabling access to online real money games through mandatory KYC, discouraging providing credit financing options to users.’ The KYC procedure will be followed before receiving any deposit and no third-party involvement will take place for enabling finance.

In case of any fraud or non-compliance aggrieved users can appeal before the Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) against the decision of the Grievance Officer of the online gaming intermediary concerned.

Self-regulatory Organizations SRO Formation

Self-regulatory Organizations (SRO) are formed to regulate the gaming industry by creating their standards. The SRO will certify online games whether the particular e-sport involves betting or wagering. Initially, three SROs will be notified, with the possibility for the government to add more in the future.

To form and implement the rules effectively, the SROs will incorporate an educationist, a mental health expert or psychologist, and an experienced official from the field of child rights protection.

What Challenges to be Resolved by These Rules

In between the immense growth of the gaming industry and ‘despite this existing legal landscape, various social and economic concerns have emerged from this industry over the past few years’. The new rules pose significance in protecting children and young adults from increasing mental health issues, self-harm, and psychological downfall, and enable parental control over children to protect them from age-inappropriate content. On the other hand, these rules are potential enough to reduce financial fraud and loss via repeated warnings. Also, these rules have to align gaming content with national cultural values, protecting cultural identity.

What Other Countries Are Doing for the Sake of Gamers

With the hype of gaming culture, every country is regulating e-sports industries to protect the human rights of children and young gamers. In the European Union most countries gambling is legal and highly regulated, however, there are countries like France, Slovenia, and Luxembourg where online casinos are illegal. At the same time, the countries like Hungary, online casinos are completely controlled by the state.

In the UK, ‘11 to 13 years old were more likely to be categorized as problem gamblers than those aged 14 to 16 years’. The UK government's Gambling Commission has a complete regulation on gambling. In Germany, every state has the freedom to implement its regulations.

Age restriction, parental control, licensing, and verification processes are globally common to regulate online gambling.

The United States has complicated the regulations owing to its interstate separate rules including operation, licensing, and taxation.

Asia has been tightening restrictions on online gaming including gambling. Especially in China, gamers under 18 cannot play online games for more than an hour on public holidays, Fridays, and weekends.

In South Koria, the law prohibits e-sport firms from providing access between midnight to 6 am to children under 16. The minimum age limit for online gambling is 19 years old. Also, it restricts all types of lotteries and gambling with certain exceptions.

In Japan, gambling is not legal with some exceptions.  For children, this country allows one hour of school days and two hours of gaming on non-schooling days for kids over 6.

So, what is in common? Every country is keeping a watch on e-sport companies for a more regulated gaming industry, as well as, enforcing parental control to provide kids and young adults a healthy and active social life.

Suggestion to Government About Other Challenges of Gamers

The challenges span legal, cultural, economic, and technological domains and require a significant and balanced approach. Moreover, the government has to strike a balance between maintaining personal freedom and protecting public health. Overregulation doesn’t go down well with the public and potentially contravenes individual rights. SROs have to keep regulations proportionate to the public’s well-being and acceptance to protect the right of the gamers.  

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