The real-money gaming industry is making great strides, thanks to the Covid-induced lockdown. A sector in itself, it aims to use the digital boom to grow faster
The year 2020 was a memorable one, albeit in a negative way. When everyone was preparing to start another financial year with productive plans in place, they had to hit the brakes. Enter, Covid. The pandemic struck us hard in March, taking life as we know it, into a downward spiral. Most industries downed the curtains on their addresses and people took to the confines of the four walls at home to get their work done. Sources of entertainment dried up quicker than one could blink, and people resorted to the mobile phones and laptops to take recourse on content, and online casinos.
The real-money industry
Online gamers and enthusiasts have already been increasing numbers, thanks to the smartphone technology and affordable data cards. Real-money gaming has been a booming industry since 2013, with fantasy leagues coming up to ensnare potential cricket and football lovers. The fact that these had real gifts and money giveaway at the end of it all, made it a lucrative and viable option for a lot of people to try their hands at. The real-money gaming industry in India has grown exponentially. A report formulated by KPMG and the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming moots the online gaming industry to take giant strides and generate Rs 11,900 crore by 2023. The estimates don’t stop there. Maple Capital Investors touted the industry to grow at 47% by 2020. Research and Markets said in a report that the industry is expected to grow at another 41% this year, developing into a $3.8 billion market.
Gone are the days when real-money games were based in Goa, where people could go and try their hands at poker, blackjack, and slots. Today, the mobile screen brings these games to you at home, with a wider pool of players, upping the competition and the thirst to win. The segment happens to be one of the most rewarding ones. It makes the gamer go through an exciting and fun-filled experience in an entertaining way. More than 400 start-ups now deal with these games and strive to rope in people with click-baits in the form of spinning wheels and preliminary discounts. Apps like Texas Hold ‘Em have the ability to hook people into its stream. Gamers, according to an estimate, spent 45-60% of their time on these platforms during the lockdown.
A digital boom
With most payments becoming digital and cashless, the real-money games have seen a massively positive response in India. With the lockdown, gaming apps have been gripping people. Their interfaces became more engaging and real-money games kept gamers occupied with social interactions from the comfort of their homes, virtually. The fact that they are also skill-based is the winning touch. The concept of foul play is eliminated with these games because digitally, there is no scope of the human sleight of hand, which is rampant in real life. Along with this comes the question of data privacy, which is compact and superb, as more and more start-ups employ software engineers skilled at protecting one’s identity in cyberspace.
The legal side
What could be called a risky feature has slowly developed into a responsible interface in real-money gaming, thanks to the great strides in technology. But all online games come under the Public Gaming Act, 1867, which has long raised the question of legality when it comes to these games. The Delhi and Gujarat high courts have recently directed states to consider all litigations that ask for regulations on online gaming, which, as many argue, have a façade of gambling. Thus, there have been laws that are applicable to online games like poker, rummy, and cricket. The biggest platform that possibly brought real-money games to the forefront had to be the fantasy leagues running during the Indian Premier League and also the English Premier League. Other gaming apps like MPL have also propped up, taking the ambit of online gaming wider.
This July, the Madras high court expressed concern about there being no clear regulatory body to audit these games. Last checked, a plethora of legal ropes were causing great losses to the government exchequer, said experts.
The Indian online gaming industry is growing at an alarming pace, according to Statista. They have predicted a jump in revenue from $295 million in 2020 to $531 million in 2025. The CAGR predicted is 12.5 percent and the penetration of users is likely to stand at 8 percent in 2020, only to rise to 10.2 percent by 2025. As per the research body, every user will, on average, spend $2.68 on online gaming in India.
“The online gaming market, especially when it comes to real-money games, has recently seen an unprecedented surge. Look at the number of players, there is an increase. People are playing online rummy and poker. Fantasy league users are going up when there are events like the IPL. That being said, the number of players who are into poker and rummy, have retained their users over the year,” said Suganthi N, project manager at LuckyRaja.
When there is a question of retaining customers, the industry follows a set pattern. It designs rewards in such a way that all subscribers benefit and make money in the fashion of loyalty programs. But this, in the long run, takes away from the retention aspect, because anyone can come in and give away a better reward system, something that all gamers look forward to.
All facts apart, the Indian real-money gaming industry does come under some archaic legal tenets that need to be looked into and amended for the betterment of the economy. The first such amendment did come in 2018 when sports betting came under a regulatory body, but with heavy legal confinements. However, the onus also lies on online gaming companies, to keep a check on their disclaimers, which should focus more on the entertainment factor in the games, rather than them becoming a means to make “fast bucks”. If the real-money industry works in an ethical manner, it can evolve to emerge as an industry that can fast hold up a chunk of the economy.
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