New Union budget makes progressive steps for online gaming

NEW DELHI — The creation of a special animation, visual effects, gaming and comics (AVGC) task force, and the substantial focus given to digital infrastructure and investments are among the key features of the new Union budget for the upcoming Fiscal Year of 2022–2023.

The budget was presented by the Centre’s Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament in February and immediately received high praises from various representatives of the country’s gaming industry.

The government’s recognition of the gaming sector as a major booster for the national economy and a significant job creator for the youth was welcomed by All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) CEO Roland Landers. “The ideas proposed for the sector are very encouraging. We are thrilled and look forward to the AVGC task force that will give a major boost to the game development sector by building scale and adding to the overall online skill gaming industry’s momentum,” Landers said.

World Esports Cup (WEC) Director Vishwalok Nath was enthusiastic about the push forward that the gaming and advertising industries will receive as a result of the Centre’s new budgetary strategy. “Esports/Video Games is a versatile industry and there is a huge scope for professional gamers as well as other jobs like casters, commentators, and other support staff appointed by the esports tournaments like producers, editors, analysts, product managers, game testers, referees, production crew members, event managers, social media managers, etc.,” Nath commented.

Witzeal Technologies Pvt Ltd CEO and Founder Ankur Singh applauded the government’s progressive steps and plans for the creation of the AVGC task force. “We see that the Government has also identified AI (Artificial Intelligence) as an area which would offer employment to youth, this would be a definitive component of the gaming industry. Moreover, the move to set up a task force to build internal capabilities to cater to domestic and international demands will help provide the much-needed push to gaming companies and developers,” Singh explained.

PlayerzPot CEO Sunil Yadav agreed that the new task force will play an essential role in the creation of young talent which is much needed by the country’s burgeoning gaming industry. Yadav also commented on the government’s policy shift towards crypto, “With the government introducing a digital rupee and a visible trend in crypto adoption, NFTs will grow significantly.”

During her budget speech in Parliament, FM Nirmala Sitharaman announced plans for profits from the sale of Crypto assets and NFT (non-fungible tokens) to be levied by the Income Tax department at a rate of 30 percent.

The measure in effect is a recognition of Crypto, even though profits from the sale of virtual digital assets are not to be treated as capital gains, but the same way as income from lotteries, gambling, and betting. Nevertheless, this is a welcome progressive step by the government, but such steps should go beyond Crypto towards the recognition of India’s massive sports betting market.

Estimates on the existing size of sportsbooks in the country point at figures between $130 and $150 billion (roughly ₹10 to ₹11 lakh crore) with the active participation of 14 crores regular and a total of 37 crores occasional bettors. These figures include underground and offline betting, as well as wagering on online platforms that offer free cricket betting tips and putting money on other sports.

Estimates further show that recognition and regulation of sports betting in India can bring an excess of $40 billion (roughly ₹3 lakh crore) to the legitimate economy with the subsequent effects of increasing tax revenues that can be used for various welfare projects and problem gambling prevention programs.

Moreover, regulation can be used for the introduction of mandatory responsible gaming, as well as consumer and privacy protection mechanisms, which can significantly lower the social costs of the existing massive sports betting market.

A step in this direction was already made by a recent verdict of the Karnataka High Court which ruled that betting on cricket and other sports events is exempt from the definition of ‘gaming’ provided by the active Karnataka Police Act and therefore is legal.

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