On February 4th, in the questions session at the Lok Sabha, The Indian Minister of State For Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju, spoke about esports’ legitimacy within the country. He stated that esports is an emerging platform for the youth and there are a large number of esports enthusiasts in India. The minister also acknowledged that the government is aware of the differences between gaming and gambling and that there are no officially recognized institutions that have been established for esports.
Jagdambika Pal, Member of Lok Sabha asked the following questions to the Minister of State of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (Kiren Rijiju) regarding “Gaming and e-Sports Policy” in India.
Kiren Rijiju recognized that esports was an emerging platform for the country’s youth population and that there were a large number of esports enthusiasts in the country. He also acknowledged that it was a medal sport discipline in the Asian Games 2022.
Perhaps the biggest win for esports in these responses is the fact that the government has recognized and acknowledged the differences between esports and gambling. The Indian Minister of State For Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju stated:
"e-Sports is different from gaming or igaming and gambling, etc. as former is skill based while latters are chance based."
Sports is currently a state subject and the development of esports rests in each respective State or Union Government’s hands. The government has not carried out any studies on the current esports market of India. However, the government is aware of the differences between gambling and gaming and does not intend to make gambling legal in India anytime soon.
There have been recent incidents where gambling companies were marketing themselves as gaming companies and were taken down by the government and giving esports and gaming a bad name for those unaware of the differences between both industries.
The Minister is aware of multiple federations like Electronic Sports Federation of India (ESFI), E-sports Development Association of India (EDAI), and E-sports India (EI) but such organizations are not officially recognized. He revealed, “no Federations/Associations have been recognized by Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.”
The Indian Minister of State For Youth Affairs and Sports acknowledging esports as belonging to the sports category is a big win for its legitimacy in the country. This is the first time that the government has talked about esports and our digital athletes might get more support from the government in the future.
Note: A previous version of the article indicated that esports had been recognized as a sporting discipline by the central govt. This was misleading and hence has been rephrased.