‘Don’t Insult Us By Calling Us Criminals’: Pro Gamer Writes Pointed Open Letter To Revenue Secy

'Don't Insult Us By Calling Us Criminals': Pro Gamer Writes Pointed Open Letter To Revenue Secy

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An Indian professional gamer has responded to recent statements made by Sanjay Malhotra, the revenue secretary of India, in a lighthearted but pointed open letter. The controversy revolves around the proposed 28 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) on gaming recommended by the GST Council. Sanjay Malhotra justified the substantial increase in GST by stating that if gaming demand is inelastic and addictive, it would benefit the government in terms of revenue. However, if the demand is elastic, he argued that gaming goes against social values and is akin to betting. In response, Deep Patel, the pro gamer, challenged this characterisation and questioned the government’s stance on gaming.

In his open letter, Deep Patel made a clear distinction between games of skill and games of chance. He emphasised that gaming, in its essence, is not betting and should not be unjustly labelled as such. Patel highlighted that gamers in India engage in games of skill like chess, poker, and various other games, which are not synonymous with criminal activities like betting.

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Patel wrote, “You term ‘gaming’ as “betting”. This, sir, is completely unwarranted and false. You are very well aware that betting is banned in India. Betting is completely a game of chance. People call it ‘Satta’. We, the gamers of India, play games of skill, like chess, poker, and hundreds of other games. Please do not insult us by calling us criminals.”

Responding to the revenue Minister’s statement that “It (28 per cent GST) may also have an economic rationale because people will hopefully use this time in more productive activities”, the letter drew attention to the global economic significance of the gaming industry. “Sir, are you saying that gamers are unproductive? Gaming globally is a $250-billion economic activity. Certainly does not look ‘unproductive’. We, the gamers, are hardworking and law-abiding young people of India. We understand that gaming is an important part of the digital economy of India. We are completely aligned with our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of the digital economy contributing a substantial part of India’s proposed $5 trillion economy,” the letter read.

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The ongoing controversy arises at a time when India’s gaming industry is experiencing remarkable growth. Reports indicate that the number of gamers in India has surged to over half a billion in FY22, a significant increase compared to the previous year’s 450 million. Moreover, India has emerged as the largest consumer of mobile games globally in FY22, with an astonishing 15 billion downloads throughout the year.

The situation underscores the importance of understanding gaming as a diverse industry that encompasses both entertainment and skill-based activities. As the debate continues, it remains crucial to acknowledge the positive contributions of the gaming community to the Indian economy and promote a balanced perspective on the matter.

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