Online Gaming Rules: AIGF Releases Model Charter For SRBs, Focus On User Protection

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The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has published a draft model charter for self-regulatory bodies (SRBs) for the online gaming sector and sought inputs from industry players on it.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) notified the online gaming rules in April 2023 and directed the formation of SRBs, which would determine if online games are permissible or not.

Explaining the rationale behind releasing the draft model charter, a source at AIGF said that while there have been a lot of discussions about SRBs, no concrete inputs have been submitted by industry players on the conduct of these regulatory bodies. The AIGF is trying to fill in this gap and its charter can be used by all SRBs.

As per the draft charter, the SRBs will offer membership only to those online gaming intermediaries that offer, or intend to offer, any real-money games or online games notified by the government under its online gaming rules.

The draft model charter has not been made public. Inc42 has accessed the draft.

As per the model charter, membership of SRBs will be granted for a period of one year, subject to payment of the applicable membership fees. In case of non-compliance with rules, membership may be terminated or suspended, which will also lead to revocation of permission granted for the game offered by the member.

“The key idea is that any charter for all SRBs should, firstly, cover all the obligations of IT Rules, secondly, it should also go a step ahead and reflect broad international best practices, and finally, should keep user protection as the main focus,” the AIGF said in a statement.

Emphasis On User Protection

The draft charter released by the AIGF has a special focus on user protection. It says that gaming platforms should implement the measures to safeguard children, including measures for parental or access control. It also suggests classifying online games through an age-rating mechanism, based on the nature and type of content.

It also asks members to not carry any surrogate advertisement or promotion of an online game ‘that is not a permissible online game, or of any online gaming intermediary offering such an online game’.

The charter also suggests members to adhere to the code of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for online gaming platforms, as well as any advertising standards that the SRB may prescribe.

“Members shall publish their mark of verification on all advertising material and promotions of their real money games,” it said.

Members means those online gaming intermediaries which are accepted formally as members of the SRBs.

It also suggests members to publish their mark of verification on all advertising material and promotions of their real-money games

Moreover, it asks members to refrain from targeting real-money games advertisements at children below 18 years of age.

It must be noted that the real-money gaming sector was the leading offender in terms of violation of advertising guidelines in the financial year 2022-23 (FY23), as per an ASCI report. 2% of gaming advertisements reviewed by ASCI in FY23 did not adhere to the guidelines for real-money gaming and failed to inform consumers about the risks of financial loss and addiction.

The charter comes at a time when the deadline to form SRBs is approaching. If the gaming industry fails to offer a proposal for SRBs before the end of the three-month deadline ending on July 6, the Centre will look at forming its own SRB.

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