Sikkim license granted, an important step towards gaming regulation in India

03 November 2014

Yet another small, but very important step towards a larger regulated online gaming market in India.

India, easily one of the largest and fastest growing gaming markets in the world, is experiencing in 2014 a number of events that could kickstart the beginning of a regulatory process, in similar lines to other jurisdictions worldwide, for example, the US.

The small, north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim last week handed its first remote gaming license. After almost 7 years of waiting for clarification from the central government, the Himalayan state has finally granted the first regular license to start online gaming operations in Indian soil to one of the several Provisional Licence holders, Indian lottery giant Future Gaming Solutions (FGS).

The proposition might still look commercially not appealing. The license will be valid only in Sikkim, one of the smallest and least populated states in India with about 600.000 inhabitants, and therefore cannot be offered outside of the state’s borders. However, it is an important milestone, and still many questions are in the air regarding what the limitations of such a license will be.

India follows the federal model and hence, offering gaming services in other states is only possible if such states pass a similar law legalising online gambling or some sort of inter-state agreement is reached. That seems difficult work looking at the Indian political scenario, but it is in the realms of possibilities that other States could follow Sikkim´s example.

Although the State governments are the ones who decide to regulate anything related to gaming or gambling in India, as the states start self-regulating and making deals among themselves, it is obvious that the onus lies with the central government to take the lead and offer the guidelines for a comprehensive pan-India regulation.

The establishment of a national regulatory body should be the aim. This will require political will which will highly depend on the amount of synergies that all the pro-regulation states and gaming groups are able to accumulate with the stakeholders (state and central governments, gaming companies both international and Indian, policy advocacy groups, IPL and other sporting bodies, media, industry associations, anti-gambling groups, business communities, etc.)

In our opinion, for that to happen, a clear and transparent debate must happen to generate all necessary synergies with the general public as well. Alliances and complicities with top Indian luminaries, opinion-makers, sportsmen (for example: the well-respected former national cricket team captain Rahul Dravid who already has positioned favourably), Bollywood personalities, journalists, etc., would help in the matter.

So, let´s see how the central government reacts to this bold attempt of Sikkim, and also how responsibly the license holders operate.

If one adds to the Sikkim licenses the upcoming Supreme Court hearings on the rummy case in November – whose favorable decision could also open the gates of games of skills for stakes in India – we are certainly looking at one of the “hottest” and most exciting regions in the world for the gaming sector.

How the above affect poker in India remains to be seen.


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