11 November 2022

Google Play Store Allowing Fantasy Sports, Rummy Apps For Limited-Time Test In India: Here’s How The Gaming Industry Is Reacting To It | ABP

As Google announced to start a pilot to allow fantasy sports and rummy apps on Play Store in India, some industry experts said on Thursday that the tech giant’s approach is “clearly discriminatory”.

Google Play store has announced a major update to its developer policy, kicking off a pilot programme to allow real-money games (daily fantasy sports and online rummy apps) on the platform for a year, starting this month. The development comes at a time when online fantasy gaming and real-money games (RMG) are under the limelight In India, owing to possible GST taxation as well as probable bans of online rummy in some states, including the likes of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. While some industry leaders are calling Google’s move a “welcome change”, some deem it “clearly discriminatory”.

Google Play store has announced a major update to its developer policy, kicking off a pilot programme to allow real-money games (daily fantasy sports and online rummy apps) on the platform for a year, starting this month. The development comes at a time when online fantasy gaming and real-money games (RMG) are under the limelight In India, owing to possible GST taxation as well as probable bans of online rummy in some states, including the likes of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. While some industry leaders are calling Google’s move a “welcome change”, some deem it “clearly discriminatory”.

How is the gaming industry reacting to it?
“Games of skill is a broad category and fantasy gaming and rummy are just two game formats considered in this pilot programme by Google. Poker, too, is considered a game of skill by several high courts in India. Likewise, there are numerous developers who offer classic as well as innovative games of skill,” said Roland Landers, CEO of All India Gaming Federation (AIGF). He said that the Google Play store has nearly 95 percent market share of app distribution platforms in India.

“This approach by Google will especially be challenging for MSMEs and new developers/platforms who will not be able to compete with established companies as their varied skill game offerings will be kept out of the Play Store ecosystem,” Landers said.

“It’s a good move that Google is becoming flexible. But at the same time, the exclusion of games like chess and poker that feature pro players and is a livelihood for many is still worrisome. The criteria are too exclusive to include the entire professional gaming community of India,” said Shivani Jha, Director, Esports Players Welfare Association (EPWA). “Overall, the basis of selection of just two games is a positive move but still discriminatory considering the spectrum of pay to play games that exist and how many play them as a profession.”

Jha added, “Indian courts have repeatedly recognised gaming as a livelihood. Most recently in Karnataka last year. One can hope that this gets acknowledged by Google too.”

“As someone who plays poker tournaments that have an entry fee, this feels discriminatory. India has an abundance of professional poker players and great talent for whom poker is a livelihood,” said professional poker player Akash Malik. “We’ve even reached the top 40 representing the country at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), it would be more encouraging if Google also included other pay-to-play games.” Ranked 21st in India, Malik is one of the top poker players on a global level.

Suraj Chokhani, Managing Director, Ability Games (11wickets.com, rummy24.com, pokerlion.com) said, “Despite Google’s hegemony and seemingly arbitrary policies against gaming apps, the Indian online gaming industry has grown from strength to strength garnering over 300 million downloads. The decision to allow rummy and fantasy sports apps is too little and too late but is nonetheless a welcome first step. A lot more clarity is needed on the payment gateways that the apps listed on Playstore can use, the criteria for listing and whether other skill-based gaming apps will also be allowed. We will have to wait and watch to see how the situation unfolds in the near future.”

“Google’s policies for advertising and listing on Playstore are often arbitrary and inexplicable. For the last several years, it did not allow rummy and fantasy sports apps on its platform despite there being clear judicial rulings recognising them as a game of skill and a constitutional activity,” technology and gaming lawyer Jay Sayta told ABP Live. “The move to allow real money rummy and fantasy sports apps on a pilot basis is a welcome decision but hopefully this will also be extended to other recognised to other skill-based games such as poker, pool, chess, carrom etc. Google should come up with a clear, transparent, non-arbitrary, and permanent policy for listing gaming apps on Playstore and clearly define a fair revenue sharing mechanism between Play store and the developer from the payments made for such games.”

According to Abhishek Malhotra, Managing Partner, TMT Law Practice, the selective exclusion of all ‘Real Money Games’ (RMG) except Rummy and Fantasy is clearly discriminatory. “There needs to be a rethink on this decision failing which Google may invite litigation. This certainly creates an unnecessary distinction between the different kinds of games offers under the RMG category in the fast-emerging gaming industry,” said Malhotra.

“The policy will provide a fresh start to this segment. We believe these decisions will encourage developers to discover innovative possibilities in the RMG space. The policy makers will have to come up with the right policies to implement, so as to allow transactions between Google Playstore and the developers,” RMG games developer Yudiz Solutions’ co-founder and director Bharat Patel said. “The platform has considered the potential of modern technologies which are making payment processing as well as other monetizing aspects of RMG more smart and secure. This decision will help the real money gaming and fantasy sports sector to explode and retain a favorable impression among the general audience.”

Pariekshit Maddishetty, Founder of Gridlogic (Taj Rummy), told ABP Live, “Despite previous discouragement, players and companies have continued to emerge, and they have now crossed the threshold where platforms can restrict them. Taking a neutral stance and allowing the businesses to operate as per the local laws is the wise thing to do, and I appreciate Google following in Apple’s footsteps.”

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