28% GST only applicable to iGaming; will not affect Indian Esports industry and its 400 million plus video gamers: ESFI

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28% GST only applicable to iGaming; will not affect Indian Esports industry and its 400 million plus video gamers: ESFI
28% GST only applicable to iGaming; will not affect Indian Esports industry and its 400 million plus video gamers: ESFI

Esports has been officially recognized as a sport by the government which finally and thankfully distinguishes it from any and all activities like iGaming such as fantasy, teen patti, rummy, poker, betting, and gambling, among others.

In the recently conducted 50th meet of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Council in New Delhi, it was announced that 28% GST will be levied on the full value of online gaming, horse racing, and casinos. Further, the GST Council further agreed that there should be no distinction between a ‘game of skill and a game of chance.’

Clearing the confusion regarding whether the GST will have any sort of impact on the Esports or video gaming industry of the country, Vinod Tiwari, President of Esports Federation of India (ESFI) & acting Director General of Olympic Council of Asia states, “It is imperative to first understand that the 28% GST is going to be applicable to the iGaming sector, including Real Money Gaming (RMG), fantasy sports, teen patti, rummy, and poker which are categorized under gambling or betting in the rest of the world. Contrary to some media reports, this GST is neither applicable nor will it have any impact on the ‘Video Games’ or the Esports industry.”

“Esports has been officially recognized as a sport by the government which finally and thankfully distinguishes it from any and all activities like iGaming such as fantasy, teen patti, rummy, poker, betting, and gambling, among others. It will carry on to be taxed the way it always has been. Theories of ‘game of skill’ and ‘game of chance’ which only exist in our country neither apply nor are relevant in the Esports ecosystem,” says Tiwari.

In April of this year, the government made amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to lay out a comprehensive framework for Online Gaming Eco-system. According to Tiwari instead of using the umbrella term of “online gaming”, the GST council should have ideally used the more specific term “iGaming’ which is known worldwide, or even “online real money game” which is defined in “The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules to avoid the confusion.

“We must acknowledge the TRUTH that the primary objective of the 400 million Indian video gamers (and approximately 3 billion gamers worldwide) is ‘purely entertainment’, and not financial gains or making money. It is regrettable that in India, our Video Games or Esports Industry is often unjustifiably associated with ‘iGaming, betting, RMG, gambling, and many more, which creates unnecessary confusion and misperceptions,” he adds.

Additionally, it is crucial to highlight that video game publishers have strict policies against implementing entry fees for any Esports events organized using their video games, further separating it from iGaming.

Having been included as a demonstration title in 2018, Esports is also going to make its full-fledged debut as an official medal sport at the 19th Asian Games where India will be participating in four titles – League of Legends, FIFA Online 4, Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, and DOTA 2. Moreover, Esports has recently been officially designated as one of the medal sports in the 20th Asian Games Aichi-Nagoya 2026.

The inclusion of Esports in major international multi-sport tournaments is a testament to the giant strides it has been making giant strides to cement its position as a mainstream sport within the country.

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