India has been transformed by mobile phone technology, with nearly 500,000 million people now connected, with the number rising at a faster rate per year. It has provided the average Indian with access to a wide variety of previously inaccessible goods. One of the key industries to benefit from this is online gaming, as Indians can now gamble without going to a land-based casino. According to recent estimates, India has 1 billion people; about 46 percent of them have engaged in some form of gambling. The lottery is one of the most popular ways for Indians to gamble, but online poker is gaining popularity year after year.
India has a simpler version of poker known as “Teen Patti,” which is played by millions of Indians every week. Millions of people have downloaded the app versions of this game, and it is growing in popularity. Owing to its popularity, punters have been motivated to play online poker because of the similarities. A large percentage of players only play for fun and do not gamble for money. It has quickly become one of the most common ways to kill time. However, many people enjoy playing for high stakes, and professional poker is becoming more popular. With the size of the jackpots and tournament prizes increasing each year, the game’s popularity will only grow (1).
In India, the laws regulating the legality of online gaming are complicated. This is mainly because each state has its own set of rules that must be followed. The majority of Indians chose to disregard any laws, but if found, they could end up facing up to many months in prison and a fine of 200 dollars or amounting to 14000 rupees. Since the government cannot control the industry due to the vast number of people who play each month, very little is done to discourage online gambling. It’s not just pvoker gaining traction in India; casino games like roulette and video slots also gain traction. Sports betting is also rising, with cricket and football being the two most common sports for wagering (2).
With a total demographic record of as many as a billion people, India has the potential to become the world’s largest gambling market. The top corporations are aware of this and are setting up shops to expand this expanding market. On the other hand, land-based casinos have been struggling during 2020, and the same is predicted next year. The main explanation for this is that they have been forced to close due to the pandemic, and not many would know when things will return to normal now that the epidemic is on the rise. One thing is confident: games like Teen Patti and online poker apps will continue to rise with fame, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon (3).
India is currently losing out on about 1.5 billion dollars in revenue due to its inability to control online gaming effectively. However, online gaming has increased in popularity at a rapid rate over the last decade. Approximately 80 percent of Indians gamble online at least once a year, either on table games, slots, or sports betting. The Indian gambling industry is worth an estimated 60 billion dollars per capita, with around half of it being illegal. Nonetheless, the statutory loophole that has been exploited has enabled Indian citizens to gamble on various offshore betting sites and casinos. Vishal Gondol had something to say about gambling, and that’s taken the whole industry against him.
Who is Vishal Gondol?
Vishal Gondal is an angel investor and entrepreneur from India. He is the CEO and founder of GOQii. Gondal established Indiagames, a game production, and publishing company that he sold to DisneyUTV Digital, a Walt Disney Company India subsidiary, in 2011. From September 12 to June 2013, he was the Managing Director of The Walt Disney Corporation India’s Digital division. On September 4, 2020, Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar revealed that FAU-G, a game created by Bengaluru-based nCORE Games and published by Vishal Gondal, will be released in January 26, 2021.
Gondal founded Indiagames, a video game production, and publishing company, in 1999. In 2009, the company employed about 300 people and had offices in Mumbai, Beijing, London, and Los Angeles. In 2009, Gondal sold a majority stake in the company to TOM Online Games, a TOM Online Inc subsidiary, while maintaining his CEO role. Indiagames made an estimated profit of 400,000 dollars on sales of 11 million dollars at the acquisition time. The GOQii ecosystem consists of a Chinese-made fitness band, an Android and Apple app, and a team of health coaches, including dieticians and nutritionists (4).
Vishal Gondal, a gamer at heart, couldn’t keep away from the world of game development for much longer. After selling his game production and publishing business Indiagames to Disney in 2013, the founder of fitness technology company GOQii hopped back on the bandwagon with the nCore Games investment as soon as his non-compete clause expired. NCore Games recently released FAU-G as a replacement for the banned Chinese battle royale game PUBG. Gondal explained why that statement was incorrect in an interview and his thoughts on game monetization and the regulation of ‘real money gaming’ and fantasy sports in India.
“There’s no such thing as real money gaming. In India, it’s a made-up term. It can’t be found anywhere else. It’s a game of chance. Gambling should be handled the same way it is in other parts of the world. Singapore, like the United States, has its own gambling rules. All I’m saying is that these things take place in India, disguised as gaming. I’ve been involved with esports since 2002 when I created the World Cyber Games in India. But as soon as you mention fantasy gaming, I instantly think of horse racing: you’re going to bet on something based on a real-world outcome. You play the sport yourself in esports, but you can’t tell, “I’m just sitting at home watching other people play and betting on their results.” That isn’t what an e-sport is,”
said Gondol (5).
The gambling market in India
Internet games involving actual money transactions regulated by the Public Gaming Act of 1867 have been caught in a legal quagmire for years. This is notwithstanding, to some degree, the steady rise in its popularity and addiction among consumers, owing to the recent advent of digital gaming platforms. Indeed, current orders from the Delhi and Gujarat High Courts to state governments to reportedly recognize public interest litigations as representations to control online gambling, allegedly operating under the guise of gaming, following applicable laws, have continued to shine a spotlight on online poker and other real-money e-games like Rummy, cricket, and others (6).
As per Statista, India’s internet gambling market is expected to rise at a CAGR of 12.5 percent from approximately 295 million dollars in 2020 to 531 million dollars in 2025, with a userbase of 8 percent in 2020 and 10.2 percent by 2025. Additionally, the average revenue per user is estimated to be 2.68 dollars. Like other industries, this rise is fueled by rising smartphone sales, increased disposable income, and more affordable high-speed internet.
“It has recently seen an increase in market participants, as more players switch to online poker and Rummy. When a big event, such as the IPL, occurs, sports betting sees a seasonal increase in users. Poker and Rummy, on the other hand, see a year-round increase in users. Sports betting also sees an increase in users during big events like the IPL, but poker and Rummy have been able to maintain a steady stream of players over the year.”
– Pocket52’s Founder and CEO, Nitesh Salvi (7).
During the lockdown, online gaming startups experienced significant growth. While Pocket52 added 80 percent of its employee base during the lockdown and saw an average 20percent monthly gain in new users, Spartan Poker saw a 35 to 40percent annual increase in the first three months the lockdown, which began in March of this year. “This was mainly due to people finding new/different types of entertainment. Since mid-August, it’s settled down and looks more like pre-lockdown numbers,” said Amin Rozani, Group CEO of Spartan Group, which operates Spartan Poker (8).
After a resident lodged a complaint alleging defamation, he was summoned by a Faridabad police station. This comes just days after he got a slew of legal notices from people who were angered by his opinions on real-money gaming apps like Rummy and poker. According to the most recent police summons in Hindi, the case concerns Ajay Malhotra, a city resident, who was offended due to Gondal’s Twitter post about the report. On April 5, Gondal has been summoned to appear before the Sarai Khwaja Police Station’s station house officer. Gondal has responded to the summons by denying the allegations and claiming that his opinion was not directed at any specific person or individual, but rather to communicate the benefits and disadvantages of easily accessible technology, such as games, to the general public, “which if not controlled… can have devastating effects on the entire society, especially on the younger generation.” He went on to say that the complaint smells like a deliberate attempt to intimidate him.
He has issued over a dozen notices so far, but this is the first police complaint. “It’s disappointing to see how the police and legal system are being used to threaten someone who is expressing his right to free expression. I’ve been addressing the negative impact of Real Money Gaming/Gambling on society and how the government can react. It appears that the business cartels are attempting to threaten and bully me”, According to Gondal. For example, Abdul Amir Amiro from Delhi has mentioned through his lawyer that he enjoys playing the card game Rummy online. Mr. Gondal was “defaming Rummy” like gambling, according to the note, by associating the game with “addiction and financial loss” in his tweets. Mr. Amiro believes that such views hurt his feelings because the practice is prohibited in Islam. Also, the notice demands Rs 25 lakh in damages for “harassment, depression, loss of credibility, and defamation.” Shaishav Dev of Patna, for example, has claimed in his legal notice that comparing him to “junkies and addicts.”
Gondal reiterated in the article and later on Twitter that fantasy sports, sports betting, and real-money video games like Rummy are all forms of gambling that should be prohibited. Even though laws are banning online gaming, these companies operate under Indian laws that allow skill games. Indian law distinguishes between skill-based and chance-based games (9).