The Fact Maker

India reportedly seeing rise in problem gambling cases—here’s why the solution lies with clear regulation

There is a rise in cases of gambling addiction in India, and according to reports, this increase is fueled by the wide availability of gambling options in the market today along with very low barriers to entry.

Lack of well-regulated market results in rise in problem gambling cases

With the advent of digital technology, people now have a digital option for their daily activities. Whether it’s paying bills or shopping, even doing business and submitting documents, many simple tasks can be done with just a tap on the phone. This also holds true for casual entertainment, seeing as how television shows, movies, and even popular games are now easily accessed digitally.

Here lies the problem, especially in the case of online gaming. Fantasy gaming, in particular, has reportedly shown “a spike in gaming and gambling addiction over the last few years, according to a recent report quoting doctors at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Bengaluru’s Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT).

Though there is no concrete data in the country about gambling addiction among users, experts say they have “seen a trickle of online gaming addiction cases in recent years. Dr. Manoj Kumar Sharma, head of SHUT clinic in Bengaluru, commented that “technology-based addiction is still not seen very seriously in the country, [so] it’s hard to assess the real impact” of online gaming among the masses.

Whatever that real impact of online gaming is, what is clear here is that there is a lack of a framework that addresses these cases especially with the wide availability of online gambling options in the market today. The Indian online casino industry has been experiencing a surge in popularity in recent years, fueled by the smartphone adoption complemented with cheap data and easy payment methods.

Right regulation needed in India, not statewide bans

The state governments’ go-to action in response to online gaming’s popularity has been to outlaw the games, which have been repeatedly struck down by high courts on grounds that they are unconstitutional.

The concern among state policy makers that some platforms are making it easy for players to bet how much they like and whenever they like is justified. As revealed in the rest of world article, one of the interviewees is still actively playing on fantasy gaming apps—albeit in moderation after they found themselves heavily in debt from spending too much on gaming.

It’s evident that gambling can’t be stopped, especially not in India with its deep-seated passion for gambling and banning it will only result in more black-market operations in the country, resulting in an even larger number of unaddressed problem gambling cases. What the lawmakers can do is study what the mature off-shore gaming markets have done to regulate the industry, ensuring that safeguards are in place to protect players from possible addiction.

Well-regulated markets are tackling the issue of problem gambling via comprehensive monitoring and support programs. In India’s case, a clear regulatory framework will allow the government and related organizations to keep track of online gambling players in the country. The use of Aadhar ID for online casino access will make digital identification easier as it will ensure that the player’s age is verified, meaning no minors are able to access the platform. It can also help the government in terms of reaching out to problem gamblers as well as potentially prevent further online abuse.

There is a strong case for India to adopt a clear regulatory framework to oversee the thriving online gaming market, that much is evident in the article. By regulating the industry, doors of opportunities are opened not just for the economy but also for the society. Industry stakeholders have long called for an effective regulation of online gaming and its many verticals, now it’s up to the authorities to make their move and legalize the industry with precise rules and regulation governing its operators, players and other stakeholders.