Online gaming stakeholders welcome ASCI guidelines

ASCI in touch with gaming companies & their representatives for inputs on fair and effective gaming guidelines, Secretary-General Manisha Kapoor tells e4m

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Nov 27, 2020 12:41 PM

The online gaming industry has welcomed the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) guidelines for ads pertaining to online gaming for real money winnings. The guidelines, which have been framed at the insistence of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), will come into effect from December 15.

The ministry had recently called a meeting with stakeholders to discuss online gaming ads on TV channels. It is of the view that certain gaming ads aired by broadcasters violate the existing advertising and consumer protection regulations.
Once the guidelines come into effect, ASCI will process complaints against ads that potentially violate the code.

ASCI Secretary-General Manisha Kapoor said the council has been in touch with the ministry for framing these guidelines. Besides MIB, the council has also consulted gaming companies and representatives for their inputs.

"ASCI has been in touch with the MIB for the last several weeks as concerns regarding gaming advertisements related to real money winning have been rising. We have been receiving complaints about gaming ads for the past few weeks. We have been in touch with several stakeholders including gaming companies and their representatives for inputs on fair and effective gaming guidelines," Kapoor told exchange4media.

She also clarified that the guidelines are not an immediate reaction to the meeting that was held by the ministry last week. "The gaming guidelines of ASCI have been in the process of development for a while. What you are seeing is the culmination of that effort."

Kapoor also asserted that ASCI guidelines have a high compliance rate and it will not be any different for the latest ones. "ASCI has an excellent compliance rate. Last year, our compliance rate was 98%. When ASCI has a ruling or comes out with a guideline every responsible advertiser would want to comply with that," she noted.

In case there is any non-compliance in the stipulated time, the said advertisement will be reported to the government for further action.

POKKT Co-founder and COO Vaibhav Odhekar said, "With the significant surge in the real-money gaming segment, the introduction of such norms by ASCI was only a matter of time. Keeping in mind the sheer rise in captive users, we believe this is one of the many steps in the right direction. While the move is bound to impact the flow of marketing dollars in the short term, we believe that bold disclaimers will result in considerable player awareness and help players to make an informed judgment. With that being said, we are confident that things will bounce back quickly after successful familiarisation and the segment will continue to chart the previously predicted growth, over the next few years."

The CEO of a leading online gaming company, who did not wish to be quoted, said that the guidelines are a step in the right direction. He, however, stated these guidelines are just statutory warnings and nothing more than that.

He also revealed that there was a committee under IAMAI that had submitted a set of well-defined recommendations to the ASCI on the subject. However, most of the recommendations have not been incorporated in the guidelines.

9stacks Founder and CTO Rishab Mathur said the ASCI guidelines are the first step by the government to regulate online gaming that involves real money. He noted that there has been a surge in the popularity of online gaming, particularly during the lockdown period.

Mathur said that 9stacks, which offers poker games, will comply with the guidelines. "With every such business, there is also a responsibility that should come. We have internal checks and balances to ensure that a user doesn't deviate from his or her general behaviour. In case that happens, we proactively take steps to either put a curb on their deposits or their gameplays so that they do not overdo things."

He also said that online gaming companies should follow a strong KYC process. "There are three levels of KYC on our platform wherein you cannot even play if you do not have a valid Pan Card, which is an adequate age proof."

While welcoming the ASCI guidelines, Indian Gaming League CEO and Founder Yash Pariani urged that the legal age for online gaming particularly e-sports should be brought down to 15 years. He also said that the government should make a distinction between skill-based online games and ones that promote gambling.

According to ASCI guidelines, no gaming advertisement may depict any person under the age of 18 years, or who appears to be under the age of 18, engaged in playing a game of online gaming for real money winnings or suggest that such persons can play these games.

"The guidelines are an important step to protect the interests of the gamers. More needs to be done on the regulatory front. There is also a need to draw a line between e-sports and games that promote gambling. E-sports is a game of absolute skill," he asserted.

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