Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Is Shahrukh Right For Endorsing Rummy Online in India? 

With the assumption that you have had your phone in hand for atleast an hour now, I beseech you to check your screen time usage. If you have spent more than an hour (leave a comment if you play online rummy in India) on a casual or professional gaming app, read on. In 2019, WHO voted ‘gaming disorder’ as a behavioural addiction. A category under International Classification of Diseases, it covers persons who are unable to stop playing even when it interferes with their daily life. 

Gaming culture among the youth in India

Now let’s talk closer home. According to the Indian Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health 2020, about 3.5 per cent Indian adolescents suffer from Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD). As a mother of two teenage boys, this is a number I find startling. My understanding is that this number goes higher than that. Especially in the post-Covid era where we have seen a surge of gaming apps and devices being sold at a premium and still running short of supply. 

A survey done by LocalCircles indeed said that 40% of the 65,000 parents they surveyed in 2022 said that their children between 9 and 17 years were addicted to videos, gaming, and other social media. While teenagers are not typically attracted to online rummy in India, the adult youth is spending significant time here. There have been reports of financial hazards that face Indian youth and parents when there is addiction to online rummy in India.

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There are some evident and implied effects of these habits. Particularly when they are being set off at such an early age. Firstly, this decimates other elementary areas of life such as work, school/college, relationships, diet and sleep pattern. Secondly, it can quickly snowball into an addiction which can impact a future generation more than we foresee today. 

Policy on online gaming in India

States are divided on this issue in India. Hence, there is still no clarity on where the government is headed in terms of policy on online gaming in India. In September, the Indian government had levied a hefty 28% tax on online gaming companies. They were to collect this from their customers for every bet. This sent a flutter across the industry which is still nascent in India. However, it is being seen as a “sunshine sector” with an expected CAGR of anywhere between 20 to 30%. 

Earlier August the government gave partial relief to the industry by as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said they would levy taxes on the total funds deposited to play online games and not on every bet. 

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Clearly this is not enough. All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) CEO Roland Landers recently told Reuters, “It may be noted that since the tax hike, multiple companies have announced their closure or widespread layoffs. We fear this trend will only increase in the coming months.” The article said that the Indian gaming landscape comprises more than 900 small and medium-sized gaming firms. However, many of these could go for an early shakeout if because of the government’s unfriendly policies and heavy taxes.

Is Shahrukh in the right by endorsing an online rummy portal?

Let’s first understand the debate. Promoters and supporters of online rummy say that rummy is a game of skill and protected under Article 19[1](g) of the Constitution of India. They suggest that while “there is an element of chance”, the game is preponderantly one that includes skill. Does this also mean that online rummy would not be taxed as per the new GST ruling by the GoI?

In fact, Menaka Guruswami lawyer at the Supreme Court of India highlights a court decision given by Justice S R Krishna Kumar in the case where Gameskraft Technologies was asked to submit a GST of Rs 21,000 crore by the Directorate General of Goods Services Tax Intelligence. However, the ruling said that the “online/electronic/digital ‘rummy’…” were not taxable as “betting” and “gambling” under the CGST Act. Calling itself an online intermediary company, Gameskraft said the impugned “showcause notices” didn’t understand their actual business practice. However, Kumar added that online rummy – played for money or not – is “substantially and predominantly” a game of skill. Hence, it will not be taxed as a games that is akin to gambling or a game based on luck. 

Prima facie Shahrukh is in the right for enduring rummy for A23 Games. Rummy is not technically a component of the online gambling industry. He is the ambassador for A23 Games and has been embroiled in controversy for endoring an online gaming brand. 

My Take

Here is where the debate lies. The Indian youth is sensitive. Wide eyed with the stature of Bollywood stars. Easily impressed by their endorsements, they will follow suit if Shahrukh Khan is associated with a brand name. This cannot be the best for a youth that is easily impacted by losses on an online game. Read about this 23-year-old who committed suicide after losing Rs. 3.5 lakh on online rummy.

My bets are on the youth that is driven and will do anything to get what they want. The number of youngsters who are building unicorns, filing patents and won sporting medals is the real sunshine in India. The situation that arises from gaming and rummy youth play online in India needs much more deliberation among the youth, the public general and with the lawmakers.

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Nishtha Shukla Anand
Nishtha Shukla Anandhttps://www.techthirsty.com/
The founder and CEO, Nishtha Shukla Anand has extensive experience of more than 15 years of media experience. She worked with leading media houses such as India Today, Pioneer and Reuters before setting out to do something on her own in 2006 with Pen Pundit Media Services.

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