Rajasthan's Draft Bill On Online Gaming Angers Esports Industry

Clubbing esports with any other form of online gaming is akin to disregarding the efforts of India's esports teams, feel stakeholders

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With an aim to regulate a chaotic online gaming industry, the Rajasthan government released the draft Rajasthan Virtual Online Sports (Regulation) Bill 2022. However, as the Bill is applicable to esports in the same light as fantasy gaming, this has angered the e-sports, which feels that such regulation will be detrimental to the growth of the sport.

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As a former full-time esports player and currently an entrepreneur in the esports industry, Animesh Agarwal, founder and CEO at 8bit Creatives, a gaming talent management agency believes esports is by no definition of the term, in the same league as Fantasy Sports.

"Clubbing esports with any other form of online gaming is akin to disregarding the efforts of India's esports teams, trying to place India on the global map, by devoting hours of hard work to upskilling themselves, perfecting their moves and strategies, while collaborating with their teammates. The physical rigor, skill, practice and passion required by a successful esports athlete definitely qualify esports to get the respect it deserves. As with many budding sports athletes, Indian esports athletes also deal with justifying their career choice and getting access to required infrastructure among other problems," he said.

Esports industry experts feel that putting esports and fantasy gaming in the same bucket or under any form of digital gambling is a problem at its root. "Esports means competitive digital games which require a special set of skills and have no external element influencing their outcome or an individual's performance. It is similar to any other mainstream sport where teams or individuals compete and need extensive practice sessions to excel," said Sagar Nair, co-Founder and CEO, Qlan, The Gamer's Social Network.

In recent years, the industry has created a pool of job opportunities and other commercial avenues. This regulation proposed by the Rajasthan government is being looked at as a move that will not only create misrepresentation about esports but also will prove to be a roadblock in the growth of the industry. "We are seeing technology evolution all across and esports is the tech evolution of sports. It is a sport recognized by world sporting bodies like IOC, OCA and Commonwealth, etc. and is being governed by the sports' rules/laws of the various countries, just like any other sport. Esports is an all-inclusive sport, restricting and/or limiting and/or regulating it the way it's been proposed in the draft bill will only be detrimental to the growth of our sport and the development of the grassroots in the state of Rajasthan or any other Indian state which is planning any such bill on the similar lines," said Lokesh Suji, Director, Esports Federation of India & Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF).

Experts also say that esports is similar to popular sports such as cricket, football, etc, which are dependent on many factors such as mental and physical fitness of players, qualification rules, equipment, audience support and engagement, etc. "While card games such as Poker are being played competitively at a national/international level, a major portion of the fantasy/RMG games are played as individuals, with the purpose of self-benefit and entertainment," said Rohit Agarwal, founder and Director, Alpha Zegus, a marketing agency specializing in the domains of gaming and lifestyle.

He also added that while the fantasy/RMG category has new games and formats coming in regularly, e-sports has a fixed set of games, rules, and formats that it operates in and hence clubbing esports in the same bracket as fantasy gaming/RMG may be out of place since both categories have quite different characteristics.

According to a June 2021 report, the esports market size in India has quickly scaled to INR3 billion in FY2021 and is expected to reach INR11 billion by FY2025. It also said that the sport, however, has a much larger economic impact and is expected to generate an economic value of around INR100 billion between now and FY2025.

In a feedback to the Government of Rajasthan, Nasscom noted that given the growth potential of online gaming industries in India, we have seen the emergence of global gaming companies setting up offices in India. It added that however, over the last few years, the regulatory uncertainty around the online gaming industry has overshadowed the growth of the industry.

"Given India's growing presence in esports, the time is right to spread awareness about esports and how it differs from Fantasy Gaming. Ultimately, I hope we make an amendment to the bill after considering the impact of such decisions on a growing industry in India, that is contributing not only to India's income levels but to India's fame and presence globally," said Agarwal, while summing up.