New Delhi: The E-Gaming Federation (EGF), formerly known as The Online Rummy Federation (TORF), will release a revamped version of its standards in early 2022 for more online gaming companies to follow them, so that the e-gaming (or electronic gaming) industry can self-regulate and promote responsible playing.
The upcoming version of the standards is different from previous versions because the EGF aims to expand the standards to get gaming platforms offering free, casual e-games to also comply with them.
This is in addition to e-games involving money, for which the standards had originally been set for.
Around 85 per cent out of the over 420 million Indians playing online games are casual gamers who play games like Candy Crush and Backgammon for free.
However critics remain unconvinced that without government intervention, online gaming can ever be a self-regulated sector. E-games, especially those involving money, have come under the scanner in states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Assam, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat because of the adverse effects on those losing money at these games. Indeed, some have even been driven to commit suicide.
Salient points of Version 3
Sameer Barde, CEO of the E-Gaming Federation, while talking to ThePrint, pointed out that the EGF, founded in 2017, says on its website that it is registered as a not-for-profit organisation under the Societies Regulation Act. The name was changed from TORF to EGF around August 2021 to reflect the fact that member firms were not limited to real money games.
The upcoming set of EGF standards will be its third version — Version 1 was introduced in 2019 and Version 2 in December 2020.
EGF shared the salient points of Version 3 with ThePrint.
They include not allowing individuals under 18 to play, requiring gaming platforms to conduct e-KYC verification, which will require gaming apps to ask for a copy of the player’s Aadhaar, adopting security measures to ensure that an individual can have only one account that no one else can access, requiring a strict timeline of 24 working hours to process fund withdrawal requests from users and prohibiting the use of ‘bots’ to ensure that humans play other humans, not computers.
Another point in the upcoming standards is getting separate certification from a third party auditor, like iTech Labs, to affirm that a gaming platform actually has random number generation (RNG). RNG certification ensures that the platform does not have a pre-defined system determining the hand (of cards or choices) a player is dealt.
Yet another rule in the standards requires a platform to allow players to block themselves for 72 hours to six months, to limit play time.
Gaming platforms will have three months after the standards are updated to comply with them and seek EGF certification.
Voluntary, not binding
It is not mandatory for EGF members to follow the standards and not all members are certified as following them. For example, one of India’s biggest game platforms, Mobile Premier League (MPL), is an EGF member but is not certified as complying with the current version of EGF standards.
EGF CEO Barde says some of the EGF members certified for complying with its standards are Games 24X7, Head Digital Works, Junglee Games, Passion Gaming, Octro, OSOM Rummy and Baazi Games.
No shortage of detractors
Critics are not convinced that online games can be expected to self-regulate using the EGF standards.
Jay Sayta, technology and gaming lawyer, said, “The E-Gaming Federation is a voluntary body and is not recognised by the state or central government or any governmental authority. It has no powers to enforce these rules on non-members or take any punitive action.”
Sayta added that some of the measures required are “an absolute ban on credit card transactions as well as any other financing, loans or credit systems for playing on these platforms”, and a “ban or tight regulation on most kinds of advertising of online gaming platforms.”
“These measures can only be enforced by the government by enacting a new law and not by any private body,” he said.
Siddhartha Iyer, an advocate who has appeared on behalf of activist Avinash Mehrotra, who had filed a PIL at the Delhi High Court seeking a ban on online gambling games, says, “I don’t think it’s ideal for the industry to self-regulate. In countries where gambling is legal, these so-called games of skill are treated at par with any other gambling activity, which are highly addictive. It is therefore essential to have an independent government body regulating these businesses.”
ThePrint contacted entrepreneur Vishal Gondal, co-founder of mobile gaming company nCore Games. Gondal had previously been critical of online real money games. Asked for his comments on the matter, he requested that his previous posts and comments be referred to.
In February this year Gondal tweeted saying “online gambling [is] being peddled in India under the garb of real money gaming/rummy/fantasy etc.”
Received multiple Criminal & Civil Defamation notices
Read @medianama https://t.co/S8kezTKYIz
People across India have taken offense to my article & tweets highlighting online gambling
(read them they are hilarious 😂) @TheKenWeb #IndiaAgainstGambling pic.twitter.com/l1oJKrc3nl
— Vishal Gondal (@vishalgondal) February 23, 2021
He also criticised a newspaper ad by TORF (now EGF) in a tweet.
When Rummy & Real Money Gaming guys put full page ads that they are safe
But terms & conditions say that they can Cause Addiction & Financial Loss
What should the government do ? #Gambling @PMOIndia @NITIAayog @RajendraGupta @happygupta @medianama @ShashiTharoor @KirenRijiju pic.twitter.com/5oRvwKWZpW
— Vishal Gondal (@vishalgondal) February 1, 2021
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)