Kiren Rijiju shares about legitimacy of esports in India at the Lok Sabha

Kiren Rijiju

The esports and gaming sector has come a long way. On one side The Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF) has officially declared esports in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China as an official medal sport and on the other side in October AP CM wanted to block 132 apps and sites including EA Games, Miniclip games and Zapak to fight against online gambling and betting but unfortunately, these doesn’t come under the belt of gambling and betting. In fact, EA games has one of the popular esports titles like FIFA series. This happened because of lack of awareness about the industry. Today, where Covid19 lockdown has seen tremendous surge in DAU and MAU rates of gaming, certain incidents are pulling the Indian gaming and esports sector behind.

Currently, every wise entrepreneur is trying to steal the limelight by either investing or collaborating with gaming brands to engage and gain visibility from the Indian gaming market. In fact the growth of gaming and esports is accelerating, therefore esports is recognised by several countries like Korea, Russia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Finland and so on. So it’s high time to provide esports the deserving recognition from the Indian government.

At the Lok Sabha on 4 February, the Indian minister of Youth Affairs & Sports Kiren Rijiju, answered few questions raised by Lok Sabha member Jagdambika Pal regarding “Gaming and esports Policy” in India.

He stated that esports is an emerging platform for the youth and there are a large number of esports enthusiasts in India. Rijiju  also acknowledged that the government is aware of the differences between gaming and gambling and that there are no officially recognised institutions/governing bodies that have been established particularly for esports.

Here is the Q&A:

Whether the Government has any plan to introduce Gaming and esports Policy in the country and if so, the details thereof.

Answer: Esports is an emerging platform for the youth population in the country. There are large numbers of esports enthusiasts in our country. It is included in Asian Games 2022 as a medal sports discipline but not yet included in the Olympics.

Whether the Government has any plans to bring the sports and gaming in the Concurrent List of the Constitution and if so, the details thereof.

Answer: Esports is different from gaming or igaming and gambling, etc. as former is skill based while latter are chance based. In India, there are some Federations such as Electronic Sports Federation of India (ESFI), Esports Development Association of India (EDAI) and Esports India (EI), which have emerged for promotion of esports. Currently, no Federations/Associations have been recognised by Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.

Whether the Government has any estimates on the size/value of the gaming industry in India and if so, the details thereof.

Answer: “Sports” being a State subject, the primary responsibility for development and promotion of sports rests with the respective State/UT Government. The Department of Sports supplements efforts of the State/UT Government through its various schemes. Presently, there is no proposal under consideration to bring sports and gaming to concurrent list.

Whether the Government has any plans or taken any steps to regulate/curb illegal gaming, betting, and gambling in India, if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons thereof.

Answer: Betting and Gambling is a State Subject (Entry at serial number 34 in the List II- State List of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India), therefore, the State authorities are responsible to regulate/curb illegal gaming, betting and gambling in their respective States. The Law Commission in its Report No. 276 titled “ Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including Cricket in India” submitted to the Government on 5 July 2018 stated that legalizing betting and gambling is not desirable in India in the present scenario.

Whether the Government has taken any steps or has any plan to introduce educational gaming and if so, the details thereof.

Answer: As regards estimated value/size of gaming Industry in India, no such study has been carried out by the Government.

Perhaps the biggest win for esports in these responses is the fact that the government has recognised and acknowledged the differences between esports and gambling. Government has addressed the main issues and for the first time government has shared their insights about gaming and esports. Hopefully, in the coming time, Indian esports industry will see ‘Achhe din’ (good times) soon.