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IT Ministry made nodal ministry for online gaming

The Department of Sports under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has been notified as the nodal Ministry for "eSports as part of multi-sports events"

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has been appointed as the nodal ministry for online gaming, a move the industry said would bring clarity and certainty to all stakeholders.

The Department of Sports under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has been notified as the nodal Ministry for "eSports as part of multi-sports events".

The Centre notified these amendments to the Allocation of Business Rules recently.

Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar tweeted that Meity will soon come out with norms for online gaming intermediaries.

The government is committed to fully encouraging tech innovation, but also to ensuring no illegal content/services are possible. "@GoI_MeitY will soon publish rules for online gaming intermediaries and start public consultation on same," Chandrasekhar tweeted on Tuesday.

The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) lauded the government’s move to appoint the IT Ministry as the nodal ministry to regulate the online gaming sector, saying, "the appointment of MeitY as the central regulatory authority will provide clarity and certainty to investors, industry and consumers." "The decision is in line with the government’s initiative to push for the growth of the AVGC (Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comic) sector and making India a global hub for online gaming," Joy Bhattacharjya, Director-General, FIFS said.

Bhattacharjya added, "We are sure that the online gaming industry will grow responsibly under MeitY’s guidance and the industry is looking forward to working with MeitY in creating a well-balanced regulatory framework."

Bengaluru-headquartered blockchain-based esports fan engagement startup STAN said at a time when gaming and esports are emerging as the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, it is heartening to see the government taking steps to uplift these sectors with increased regulatory clarity.

"We at STAN welcome this move to appoint nodal ministries for online gaming and esports. This move is also in line with the much-needed agenda to recognise esports as an official sport in our country -- thereby giving a fantastic boost and a level playing field to today's esports athletes, gaming creators, and the community at large, and further also making esports a sunrise sector in India in 2023 and beyond," Parth Chadha, CEO and Co-Founder of STAN, said.

Rooter, the game and esports content platform, said the recognition of eSports as a part of multi-sports events is a welcome move.

“It comes at an opportune time for the industry which has already seen rapid growth in 2022 on the back of multiple domestic and international tournaments where Indian teams have proven their mettle," Piyush Kumar, Founder and CEO of Rooter, said.

"As esports goes mainstream, effective policy push will also see it grow at the grassroots stages, with many schools and colleges adopting esports at competitive and representative levels. It will also give a fillip to the whole ecosystem of game publishers, streaming platforms, eSports organisers and teams, creating more opportunities for employment growth in the space," Kumar said.

Lokesh Suji, Director, the Esports Federation of India and Vice-President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF), said, “Now onwards, we will have to build the proper infrastructure, training facilities and coaching for our young esports athletes. Only a short time until we see Esports being placed in the same league as cricket, football, basketball, etc. and having similar fan power, scale and craze. With the latest announcement and India recently competing for medals at the inaugural Esports Asian Games, people are shaking off the misconceptions linked with esports as a passion or career option. The year 2023 beholds greater opportunities for esports and we are anticipating more favourable developments, only making it bigger.”

Rohit Jagasia, Founder and CEO, Revenant Esports, commented, “ This revolutionary decision will not only transform the country's gaming landscape in terms of improved infrastructure, funding, exposure and providing education about the sector but will also put India on the global Esports map as a force to be reckoned with. The year 2023 is undoubtedly going to be the start of the country's golden era in Esports and with the Asian Games as well as the Olympic Esports Week also set to take place soon, there is a lot of success expected to be in store for the entire community.

Animesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO, 8bit Creatives and an ex-esports athlete, added, “The industry inclusive of developers, players and creators as a whole is growing at a fast pace and to come full circle this recognition will be very thriving for the industry. It presents a clean slate for gamers and proves to neigh-sayers that Esports is, in fact, a serious sport that deserves to be recognised for its skilled and hard-working players who will be competing against some of the world's best players and put India on the map of professional gaming countries.”

The online gaming space has been under the regulatory lens, and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had recently said the Centre would come out with a proper policy or a new law on online gaming given the impact it has on society.

Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha earlier this month, noted that with more Indians coming online, the potential of them being exposed to online gaming platforms with harmful information has also increased.

"With the expansion of the Internet and more and more Indians coming online, the potential for Indians being exposed to online games, offered by online gaming platform intermediaries including online games that have information that is harmful or violates any law, has also increased," he had said.

The minister said that the government has come up with Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which cast a specific obligation on intermediaries, including intermediaries offering online games, to observe diligence.

He had said that the rules provide that if intermediaries fail to observe diligence, they shall no longer be exempt from their liability under law for third-party information or data or communication link hosted by them.

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