Chasing Votes or Implementing Gambling Addiction Prevention Policy?

Another Story of a Fantasy Sports Addict Comes to Light

Ravi, a man in his early thirties, is still hoping to make the big win by playing fantasy sports as he was doing back in 2018 when he started, but now he has learned the hard way to game with a self-imposed daily limit of ₹100. This is not his real name, as Ravi is with the bottom ranks of the security forces of India and anonymity is a must for him. His heartbreaking but educative fantasy sport addiction story was recently revealed in a media publication.

An old-time cricket fan, when friends told him about fantasy sports, Ravi quickly seized the opportunity, as he saw it, and started betting small amounts on cricket matches. Several months later, the amounts he bet increased and he ventured into football and basketball despite knowing almost nothing about these sports.

The losses he was making didn’t deter him. “When I would suffer losses, I would think I had to recover it, and I would put in more money,” Ravi says. Soon, he was spending up to ₹1,00,000 and even ₹1,50,000 per a single day of fantasy gaming. At the end, his total loss amounted to ₹35,00,000, including all his savings, a bank loan and the full limit of his credit card.

Luckily, when he finally made his suicide atempt, he was saved by his colleagues. His senior officers saw the suicide note he had tweeted and sent a team to rescue him from he railway tracks he had chosen to end his life. He then spent 20 days in a mental health institution to overcome his depression and addiction problems.

Ravi is now well, he is repaying his debts little by little and is betting no more than ₹100 on fantasy games and only on athletes and teams he is knowledgeable about. “Winning 1 crore rupees could completely change my life for the better,” he shares. “I know how addictive it can get, so I’m not overusing it.”

Why Hasn’t India Implemented Gambling Addiction Prevention Policies?

While “almost 98% [of users] have either won or lost less than 10,000 rupees net on an online fantasy platform in their lifetime,” as per the words of Anwar Shirpurwala, CEO of the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), there are a lot of cases similar to Ravi’s, sometimes involving even children, and not all of them have a non-tragic ending. The most logical question that comes to mind is why doesn’t the government adopt policies to prevent such addictions and problems?

State governments have indeed reacted to the issue, but their usual approach of late is to place an outright ban on all online gaming, like the prohibitions that were imposed in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in 2021. This is not a policy that focuses on the problem itself, but tries to solve it by blocking a burgeoning industry that provides huge revenues for the economy and the exchequer and creates a lot of jobs.

The actual prevention effect of these blanket bans on gaming is also very questionable, as the small percentage of gamers who do have a problem would just find illegal or offshore alternatives to put more money in trying to recover their losses or to just get a fix for their addiction. Moreover, the blanket bans have quite a short lifespan as High Courts consistently strike them down as unconstitutional.

What is the Point of Banning All Online Gaming?

The question of why politicians go for such ineffective and short-lived blanket bans receives a logical answer by Felicia Wijkander, Chief Editor at India’s biggest casino comparing platform SevenJackpots. “Another reason why Bharat states love to throw gambling bans around is that they bring in votes. Especially women’s votes.,” she writes.

“While Indian men historically have been the “bread-bringer” of the family, they also have the power to bring a family to its peril if their hard-earned money were to go to alcohol or gambling instead of bringing food and shelter to their family. It’s, therefore, low-hanging fruit for governments closing in on election day to state that they’ll “solve” that home-wrecking problem by banning gambling,” Felicia adds.

Is There a Better Solution Possible?

Unlike India, many countries around the world have taken care to adopt gaming and gambling regulations that focus on user protection and prevention of addictions, sinking into excessive debts and other related problems.

Simple, but effective measures, like a national-level self-exclusion program granting players the option to press a button and get excluded from all gaming sites in the country, a ban on betting on credit, daily or weekly deposit limits, restrictions on game session time and round speeds, could have prevented Ravi and his likes from all this life-endangering trouble.


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