Indian Gamers Touch Upon ‘Gaming vs. Gambling’ in a Discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi


Indian Gamers Touch Upon ‘Gaming vs. Gambling’ in a Discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Vignesh Raghuram
Updated On: 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with top Indian gamers to discuss the esports industry, emphasizing minimal government intervention and the need for tailored regulations to support the industry's growth.
The discussion highlighted the confusion between gaming and gambling, with esports leaders advocating for recognition of esports as a legitimate, skill-based sport, separate from gambling activities.
The esports community faces challenges from misclassification under gambling regulations, prompting calls for clearer government definitions and regulations to support accurate taxation and investment.

In a recent meeting with India’s top gamers and content creators, Prime Minister Narendra Modi explored the rapidly evolving esports industry, which is burgeoning due to the widespread availability of affordable internet. The session, which also broached topics such as career prospects and common misconceptions about gaming, underscored the government's cautious approach toward regulation.

One of the main topics discussed was the idea of establishing a regulatory framework for the gaming industry. However, Modi expressed a preference for minimal governmental intervention. "To regulate would not be ideal, because it is not in the nature of the government to intervene," Modi explained. He proposed an alternative approach: "Either impose restrictions under law, or try to understand and mold it on the basis of our country's needs; Bring it under an organized, legal structure and uplift its reputation."

Gambling vs Gaming in Indian Esports Industry

The conversation highlighted a critical issue in the public perception of gaming—its conflation with gambling. S8UL Esports co-owner Animesh "Thug" Agarwal advocated for the government to recognize esports as a legitimate sport, emphasizing that "it should be identified as a sport and that it's skill based gaming and that it doesn't involve gambling. Once this is established and understood by all government bodies including those involved in financial transactions, it will be really beneficial."

Addressing the often blurred lines between gaming and gambling, Modi queried, "How do you deal with the conflict between gaming and gambling?" Tirth Mehta, an Asian Games 2018 bronze medalist, responded, stating the misunderstanding about the nature of competitive gaming: "The games we play are very different, however they assume it is similar to easy games like Ludo. But that's not true. We play games as complex as Chess which demand mental and physical skills."

Further emphasizing the distinction, Thug pointed out the necessity to differentiate between real money games (RMGs) and skill-based gaming. He also highlighted the international recognition of esports athletes: "Today our athletes are participating in Olympics, Asian Games as well as Commonwealth Games."

Ganesh "SkRossi" Gangadhar also shed light on the generational disconnect about the gaming profession. "When a kid expresses his wish to be a gamer to his parents, the parents don't really know what a gamer does. They mistake gaming with gambling as well. On that, PM Modi shared some wonderful insights on how to differentiate the two. And we also shared our perspective with him," he said.

In response to the discussions, Modi encouraged the gaming community to articulate their issues in detail: "You can mail all your problems mentioning the exact key points to my office."

Earlier in 2023, over 45 Indian video game companies, including Penta Esports and SuperGaming, had united to seek governmental clarification on the categorization of video games distinct from Real Money Gaming (RMG) and Fantasy Sports. They argued that the imposition of a 28% GST on "Online Games" incorrectly lumps together RMG and Fantasy Sports with video games and esports, causing confusion. This misunderstanding affects perceptions among gamers, international investors, and the media. The industry advocated for using the term "iGaming" for RMG and Fantasy Sports, as understood globally, to distinguish them from video games. The coalition reached out to various Indian ministries, highlighting the need for differentiated regulations to reflect the true nature of esports and prevent negative stigmas and investment hesitations. Following this, in 2024, The Supreme Court agreed to examine a challenge against the imposition of 28% goods and service tax (GST) on full face value for online gaming.

Over the years, numerous prominent real money gaming (RMG) firms, flush with investor funding, have started branding themselves as esports platforms. This is curious given that the majority of their offerings are primarily single-player, casual, or games that lean heavily towards chance rather than skill. This raises pivotal questions: Are these companies genuinely stretching the boundaries of what constitutes esports, or is this merely a strategic ploy to stand out in the crowded RMG landscape? More concerning, might this rebranding be an attempt to sidestep the stringent legal and financial challenges associated with online gambling regulations in India?

AFK Gaming had published an article detailing this matter and why the lack of clarity around the term “esports” could prove to be an existential threat for the industry in India. You can read the full story in our esports explained bundle.

This meeting signifies a forward-thinking step by the current government, recognizing the need to properly understand and support the esports industry, potentially paving the way for future legislative and societal acceptance.

Published On: 
author profile picture
Vignesh has been covering the esports industry for nearly 5 years starting with the early days of the DPC. His industry expertise includes experience in Dota 2, CS:GO and Mobile Esports coverage.

Follow us on social media


Others Also Read