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Nazara’s Manish Agarwal foresees ‘more clear and firm’ India real money gaming market in coming quarters



Four to eight quarters. That’s the timeline that Manish Agarwal, chief executive officer of publicly listed gaming company Nazara Technologies, expects for the real money gaming market in India to have a “more clear and firm” outlook.

Judgments vs state bans ‘becoming sharper and clearer’

In an interview with MoneyControl, the Nazara executive outlined his expectations given the current state bans and corresponding judicial rulings. A number of Indian states—Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and more recently, Karnataka—have sought to ban real money games, resulting in many gaming platforms including Nazara-owned fantasy sports app Halaplay to announce they were blocking residents in the state of Karnataka from accessing their sites.

The high courts, however, have stepped in and ruled against many of the bans on real money games. The Madras High Court struck down in August a similar suspension initiated by Tamil Nadu and Kerala governments, and the Kerala High Court followed suit in September. This is why Agarwal is confident that the situation will become clearer soon and operators can continue to operate with firmer guidelines and offer players of online casinos in India a better and safer real money gaming environment.

“In the last two months, there have been more positives than negatives (in the sector). I’m seeing that state governments are losing battles in their respective high courts and judgements are becoming sharper and clearer where there are black and white rather than grey,” Agarwal said. “Given that the space is so large and new, there will be constant challenges but our view is that over the next four to eight quarters, things will start becoming more clear and firm.”

Real money gaming makes up to 3 percent of Nazara’s overall revenue. In addition to embracing the popularity of real-time games, the company is also keeping in mind the developments happening at many online casinos and gambling games like blackjack for real money for its own product offerings.

“The overall market is very large, around Rs 11,000-13,00 crore, and the business has very strong network effects of trusted brands, concurrent users, and liquidity pool on the platform,” Agarwal said.

Supreme Court: Games of skill a constitutional right

For many industry stakeholders, it’s only a matter of time before the real money gaming situation in India clears up. After all, the Supreme Court has already ruled that online games of skill are protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

This gives weight to the legal challenges brought on by operators; but what the industry needs is better regulation—one that’s updated and uniform across all states.

As analysts at SevenJackpots explained, regulation is the right call as it will help betting platforms prove their integrity, which results in a better business climate and improved tax collection for state governments. “A regulated market is better than an illegally functioning one. Examples of effective gambling regulation are found easily: licensing, taxation, and monitoring come first. Corruption and lobbying need to be rooted out with precise legal definitions, altogether raising consumer protection standards,” they noted.

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