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eSports and Gaming policy discussed in the Indian Parliament; IOA could recognize it and more

Kiren Rijiju, the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports for India talked about the legitimacy of eSports in the country. Here is everything new we know about eSports and gaming that happened during the Parliamentary session.

A major development took place in the Indian Parliament last week when it comes to video games and eSports. According to a report, the parliament discussed the gaming and eSports policy to further push the industry. Kiren Rijiju, the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports for India talked about the legitimacy of eSports in the country. Rijiju admitted that eSports is an “emerging platform” with a significant number of enthusiasts behind the industry. During the question session that took place on February 4, he also acknowledged that the government was aware of the differences between gaming and gambling. In addition, we also got a statement from Indian Olympic Association (IOA) about eSports. Here is everything new we know about eSports and gaming that happened during the Parliamentary session.

Gaming and eSports policy discussed in the Parliament, details

During the discussion, Rijiju noted that the government has not recognized any institutions regarding eSports. He also addressed several questions from Jagdambika Pal, the member of Lok Sabha about the policy for “Gaming and e-Sports”. The list of questions included information on plans to bring a policy regarding gaming and eSports and plans to bring gaming and eSports “in the concurrent list of the Constitution”. Pal also asked Rijiju the government estimates on the size and value of the gaming industry in India, information on plans to regulate and limit illegal gaming, betting, and gambling in India. Finally, the list of questions also included any steps to introduce “educational gaming” in the country.

As part of the responses, Rijiju acknowledged eSports as an emerging platform and that it was a medal sport in Asian Games 2022. While admitting the difference between eSports and gambling, Rijiju noted, “e-Sports is different from gaming or gaming and gambling, etc. as former is skill-based while latter are chance-based.” In addition, Rijiju re-emphasized that the government does not plan to make gambling legal “anytime soon” as noted in a report by AFKGaming. The responses noted that the government has no plans to bring eSports and gaming to the concurrent list in the Constitution of India. This means that the development of this industry is still on a state or Union governments.

Rijiju also stated that he was aware of federations like the Electronic Sports Federation of India (ESFI), the E-sports Development Association of India (EDAI), and E-sports India (EI). However, he added, “no Federations/Associations have been recognized by Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.” It is worth noting that this is the first time the government of India has acknowledged eSports as a legitimate industry in India.

Indian Olympic Association to recognize eSports

Just hours after the initial report about the discussion in the parliament, IOA stated that it plans to recognize eSports as a formal sport. It will also recognize ESFI as the governing body of eSports in India. Rajeev Mehta, the Secretary-General of the IOA shared a statement with talkesports regarding the information. Mehta stated, “The IOA would have no say in the team selection for the next Asian games. Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has authorized the Asian Esports Federation for it and the AEF has in turn given the responsibility to the ESFI. The IOA’s duty is to ensure the entry of teams in Asian Games and other such mega-events”.

The statement outlines that the move to recognize ESFI is not really on IOA but instead on AEF. The information is also in contradiction with what we got from the discussion during the parliament session. However, this is not surprising as several entities like the ESFI a non-profit organization, EDAI, and EI have long been trying to position themselves as the authorities in India. What is worse is that most of these entities have vested interests in gaming apps. Due to this, they try their best to muddle the water by trying to classify gambling as eSports and gaming.

Editor's Note: Updated the article to reflect that ESFI is not a private organization and does not hold the same opinion as other entities around eSports and gambling.