The major players in India’s online gaming and betting market include Dream11, MPL, RummyCircle, and Parimatch, among others.
Former Karnataka law & education minister S Suresh Kumar has written to Union Ministers Amit Shah and Nirmala Sitharaman urging them to ban the promotion of online games involving monetary bets through advertisements, text messages, mobile calls, and other forms of marketing.
In separate letters, he said he was aware of the court rulings allowing online games of skill and that the Supreme Court was currently seized of the matter. But the government could consider a ban on marketing by online gaming companies in the interest of the youth and save them from falling prey to such games, he asserted.
“I receive verbal complaints from several friends and parents of residents from my constituency as well as from other parts of Bengaluru that they have been getting both text messages on their mobile phones and unsolicited marketing calls trying to entice/force them to play online rummy by betting their money.
As part of their marketing strategy, they offer a welcome bonus of thousands of rupees to lure them and get them to become addicts of the game. Some people even told me that blocking these numbers had been of no use as these messages and calls keep coming from new numbers,” Kumar, a sitting BJP MLA from Bengaluru, said in his letter.
Kumar urged the government to treat online gambling like liquor and cigarettes. “Though liquor and cigarettes are allowed under law, their manufacturers are expressly prohibited from advertising and marketing them, and even our GST regime treats them as demerit goods…I strongly believe the same regulations should apply to online games involving money,” he said.
The former law minister said that the Supreme Court has also laid down harsh measures to prevent the sale of tobacco/cigarettes near educational institutions.
“I am aware courts have upheld the legal validity of online games of skill, but there is no bar on the government from prohibiting advertising/marketing/texting by online gaming companies to lure people into playing these games by betting money. Once into it, many become addicts and find it difficult to come out,” said Kumar.
“The pressing need for money may even drive them into acts of crime,” the former minister said, referring to police reports on how people were losing money in online gambling and ruining their lives.
“There have also been reports of indebted people taking the extreme step of ending their lives, unable to survive the trauma and repay debts.”