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Is Online Gaming an Evil or an Opportunity?

Media outlets often point the finger at popular online games for almost all that’s wrong with India’s youth. But that is a lazy habit that moves the debate nowhere while there are some pragmatic solutions out there.

Trapped in Oversimplification

Indian news media often hails the nation’s youth as the driver of economic and social change and a brighter future for the Union. On the other hand, many doubt that young people can even take responsibility for simple actions like playing mobile games online.

When national outlets indicate real-money gaming as the root of all evil for the desi youth, they do not simply repeat a commonplace cliché. What they say is wrong and outright dangerous because it fails to ask the right questions and find the proper reasons for a person’s troubles.

If someone likes cricket betting online in India, they should be ashamed of it and do it with back-alley bookies or unlicensed sites online. The message that all games for money inevitably lead to addiction, bankruptcy and ultimately suicide is not only absurd, it ignores the foundations of societal support and mental health care.

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Victims are described as always young (between 20 and 35), having lost lakhs in online gambling despite their good education, decent jobs and solid family backgrounds. The truth of the matter is that people do not simply commit suicide – or murder their entire families, the same article cites – without having underlying mental health issues present. Mistaking the trigger for the cause is disrespectful for those affected.

And that is without even considering the absence of studies and biased statistics that merely evoke loud headlines. It seems like millions have committed suicide for reasons known to the media, while the piece says 20 people in a 70-million state (TN) over 3 years. That is 1 in 10 million per year.

Regulation Is the Key to Taking Control

Global best practices have shown that regulation is the far superior approach than ignoring the need to legislate or placing a blanket ban on the market. If people want to get safe IPL betting platforms, policy makers need to deliver such means instead of leaving it all in the hands of black markets.

Regulation does not ostracize players and sets the bar high for operators – be those online or land-based. Gambling laws, preferably national, have the power to set up a licensing regime and place stringent requirements on company finances, advertising policy and gaming technology.

This is the only meaningful way of providing consumer protection and channeling players to legitimate government approved sites and apps. Every other concept fails to stand up to global competition and unlicensed operators.

Responsible Gaming a Sign of a Mature Market

Regulating the online gaming market brings many benefits, with taxation revenues and job creation just the tip of the iceberg. The most significant achievements of a gambling legislation come in the shape of responsible gambling (RG) policies.

While the gaming industry has shown remarkable capacity to self-regulate in Europe and America, RG standards and requirements can be imposed as a condition for initial licensing. These are effective safety nets which have a massively positive impact on people who might lose sight of their spending during gaming sessions.

Online technology makes it all much easier – time and spending limits, age restrictions to protect minors, exclusion lists for problem gamers. There are digital tools for slowing down games (e.g., 3-second stops between spins) and behavioral triggers that evoke pop-up messages and timeouts before recommending external help or even exclusion.

Finally, there are numerous helplines and awareness campaigns that authorities can establish. These can be funded by licensing fees and gaming revenues and, more importantly, will need to work alongside mental health services locally.

All in all, there are concrete and proven ways of approaching the issue of online gaming. Extensive and detailed regulation is the proper way to handle society’s concerns but, admittedly, it requires much more work on behalf of authorities of all levels.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the above article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ItsGoa.

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