Real money games addicting youth
Apps that push youth into gambling need to be banned. Till this process is complete, there will be a need to ban advertisements, especially by celebrities. — Dr. Ashwani Mahajan
For some time, you must have seen advertisements of some 'apps', in which sports celebrities are seen advertising online games, although at the same time in the same advertisement there is also a quick warning, 'to play these games carefully, they may be addictive'. In fact, today our youth are getting trapped in the apps and games endorsed by these celebrities. This 'Real Money Gaming' industry has expanded significantly due to the expansion of internet and mobile in the country for some time now. It is believed that by the year 2025, the business of this industry will exceed 5 billion dollars.
What are these 'Real Money Games'
Various types of online and apps based games, including virtual games i.e. fantasy sports, rummy, ludo, share trading related games, crypto-based games etc are called real money games, which are played for money and reward. This game is 'skill' based as well as 'chance' based. But no matter, whether they are skill based or chance based, they are expanding fast and companies promoting these apps and websites are making huge profits.
Spoiling the future of youth
Ever since the emergence of these real money games, there have been many cases of youth ending their lives after getting trapped in debt. It happens because they are virtually addicted and chances of ultimately winning in these games are very meagre. In some cases even families have been ruined after the youth getting trapped in huge debts due to these addictive apps. In the year 2020, an app company named Dream-11 bought the sponsorship rights of IPL cricket by paying rupees 222 crores. After this the Dream-11 app became a household name, not only this, apps of other fantasy cricket games also bought advertising rights in IPL. All these apps are being promoted by big cricket personalities. The names of many celebrities including MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant. Reports suggest that most of the youths who commit suicide due to gambling addiction through these apps are in the age group of 19 to 25 years, and they include students, migrant laborers and businessmen.
Skill or Chance?
Most of the courts have also upheld these fantasy cricket games, accepting the argument that it is not gambling or a game of chance, but a game of skill. Yet, understanding the gravity of the issue, 6 state governments have so far banned or not allowed fantasy cricket platforms. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has requested the Union Government, to ban 132 such apps.
Although some studies hold that the winning in this fantasy cricket game is nothing by chance, therefore it is not gambling, but some sports psychologists believe that fantasy cricket is actually gambling and may lead to pathological gambling behaviour. However, the logic of the people associated with this 'industry' is that there is no reason to be addicted to fantasy sports as the average ticket price in this is only 35 rupees, so a person cannot lose more than 10 thousand in such games in his life time. However, with the information that people committing suicide after getting trapped into debt of lakhs of rupees, due to these 'games', this argument is proved wrong. Therefore more investigation is needed in this subject. It is worth noting that at present this 'industry' is not under any regulatory laws and is self-regulated. Therefore, instead of information from the industry itself, only a thorough investigation of these apps can only reveal the truth. But the fact remains that people are losing a lot of money due to these virtual games and are not able to get out of these game.
Risk-taking is not only said to be important in neoliberal economic theories, but it is also glorified. Many financial instruments have entered in the era of neo-liberal policies and speculation has become an integral part of today's economies. Although speculation in the stock market, commodity market, and foreign exchange markets has many side-effects, but they are legally permitted. With the entry of speculation into the common life, the practice of fantasy games has also gained general acceptance. But while there is some degree of chance in speculation as well; in fantasy games, technically it can be argued that it is not a game of chance. But, the reality is that, players do not enter the game thoughtfully and also don't play skilfully. They more or less depend on chance. Some players may win and some may lose, but the truth is that the apps companies which run these games are constantly growing their business and earning huge profits. This profit drives them to purchase sponsorship rights by paying huge fees to cricket organizers like BCCI. It has to be understood that their profit is at the cost of those poor students, laborers, farmers and common man, who put their savings on stake in these games, or even borrow to play these real money games.
Courts are yet to decide whether so-called skill-based games involving real money stakes are actually gambling or not. If there is some degree of chance, then they cannot be legal, according to the law of the land. It is seen that many apps are running pure gambling platforms under the guise of skill based games. An important point is that these apps have taken huge amount of investments from foreign investors and their sole purpose is to make people addicted to gambling. The design of these apps itself is to make people addictive to these apps. Not only this, by tampering with the software of so called skill based games, customers are also being befooled. In this context, we also find that the courts and administrative bodies have information about these, which the customers do not have. Not only the 276th report of the Law Commission of India, even the Supreme Court has observed that the results of skill-based games can be influenced by mechanical tampering.
In such a situation, the Government of India and the concerned administrative ministries cannot sit idle. Apps that push youth into gambling need to be banned. Till this process is complete, there will be a need to ban advertisements, especially by celebrities. In this matter, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of IT, Electronics and Telecom and Ministry of Home Affairs; will all have to join hands and relieve people from these addictive real money games and save our students, youth, laborers and common man.