Superstitions Should Be Taken Seriously By Gaming Regulation
A Peculiar UK Case Attracts Attention to ‘Gambler’s Fallacy' Abuse
The Guardian recently reported a peculiar case being examined by the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of a certain gaming website allegedly exploiting the superstitious attitudes of users by abusing the notorious ‘gambler’s fallacy’.
The so-called ‘gambler’s fallacy’ is a misleading belief that the outcome of a chance event may depend on previous results. For example, when playing roulette, if the ball falls five consecutive times on red, one may think it is high time for the ball to finally land on black. This is a false notion, as chances of hitting red or black on the sixth rotation of the wheel are equal, and in no way depend on previous outcomes.
The investigated website advertised a feature that offered players a “unique chance to see the games on winning streaks” and choose to play ‘hot’ games to see if they keep paying out earnings or check if the player can “change the luck” of ‘cold’ games.
The website even had a sign saying, “Switch between HOT or COLD to reveal the MOST and LEAST profitable games of the hour, updated every 5 minutes.” Reportedly, there was also a TV commercial with a tarot card reader secretly looking at the website’s smartphone app before choosing what advice to give to her customer.
The ASA investigation was commenced after a complaint was filed last year against the online casino which had a valid license by the UK Gambling Commission. The ASA decision is expected to uphold the complaint and have consequences for all UK licensed online gaming websites making them unable to exploit superstitious beliefs by users and the ‘gambler’s fallacy’.
India Needs to Include a Rule against Abuse of Superstitions in National Gaming Legislation
In an attempt to ensure a safe gaming environment for desi players and maintain the stable growth perspectives for the Indian gaming industry, The Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill, 2022, was proposed at the Lok Sabha on the 1st of April this year. As a country where superstitious beliefs connected with luck, abundance and prosperity have a significant foothold, India clearly should include a rule against the exploitation of such superstitions in its national gaming regulatory framework.
The proposed Bill seeks the creation of a national-level licensing regime over all modes of online gaming involving real money and the establishment of a Central Online Gaming Commission to oversee the licensing process and the gaming activities in the country. The Bill, however, fails to frame any rules regarding the possible exploitation of superstitions which may prove a significant oversight by Indian lawmakers.
Lack of Protection against Exploitation of Superstitions is not the Only Flaw of Proposed Gaming Regulation
A recently published analysis by industry experts of the proposed Online Gaming Regulation Bill welcomes its introduction in parliament and at the same time highlights the areas where the Act has its flaws. The authors from ENV Media lean on their professional experience in the sector to point out the key aspects of the Bill that need improvement so that the law can achieve its purposes.
One of the main characteristics of the proposed Bill that has attracted the attention of the experts is that it makes no distinction between real money games and casual games that have a real money feature.
“In short, an online casino shouldn’t be regulated in the same way as, for example, a gaming platform offering a first-person shooter game with optional real money features. These games are widely different, and trying to fit them under one umbrella is a recipe for disaster,” says Felicia Wijkander, Editor in Chief at ENV Media and SevenJackpots, a prominent Indian casino comparison platform.
Another aspect highlighted by the real money gaming experts is that the Bill provides for penalties for gamers who play on unlicensed platforms. “Successful regulated markets tend to work towards restricting access to unregulated operators while limiting fines to local licensed actors who breach the law rather than punishing the users. As, if there is a good, regulated, and safe product, players will opt to use that one over illegal ones,” the authors point out.
A major omission of the proposed bill is the lack of any rules obligating licensed operators to implement responsible gaming mechanisms and data protection protocols, as well as no restrictions on marketing and advertising are envisaged.
A Great Step in the Right Direction
Regardless of its flaws, “the bill is a great step in the right direction, showing all the things India has to gain from online regulation,” the ENV Media analysts conclude. The benefits of online gaming regulation include “responsible gambling tools & processes; stringent marketing guidelines; underage gambling prevention; anti-money laundering processes; guaranteed fairness, taxation; social responsibility; player rights” and the creation of new job opportunities.
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