Gambling or Game of Skill?

20 Apr,2022



By Sanjeev Kotnala


Sanjeev KotnalaPolarised views are part of life. Most of us may have polarised views on gambling, drinking, smoking, pornography and prostitution. Ethics and morality are always contextual and comparative. However, there is confusion when it comes to gambling disguised as a ‘Game Of Skill’. I don’t have extreme views about it, despite being overexposed to their unrepentant, hugely dominant share of screens near me.


I am an impulsive gambler. I love it. Whenever abroad or in Goa, I visit casinos. And if nothing else, I am known to bet harmlessly on random things. I have taught the basics of casino games to many and have seen wealth created and destroyed, sometimes within a few hours. Moderation in gambling has been the key for me. And fortunately, till now, life has been easy as the opportunities were fewer.


As an advertising and marketing person, I am willing to put my expertise into helping anything that is not illegal. That would include gambling apps (game of skill) acceptable and completely legal in many Indian geographies.


In the last few years, legalised gambling with cricket has grown manifold. Dream 11, My Circle and what not. Everyone tells you, you can win big though it carries the possibility of financial risk and may lead to addiction.


Advertising, ease of playing and the low entry cost have made them socially accepted. Around the dinner table, parents and kids discuss their teams and their earnings in the morning.


These new-age gambling companies have been the rebel, masquerading their luck-based game as a game of skill and convincing decision-makers. In sharp contrast to permission to app-driven platforms, Deltin Daman, a brick-and-mortar casino in Daman, is waiting for approvals to start.


Some late entrants are still waiting as this type of gambling is not legal everywhere in India. There are apps playing Share Market within the share market. New forms of skills and talent demanding games are entering, including cryptocurrencies.


Like any other gambling, the gaming apps are instinct-based, and expectations are fuelled by past experiences. Imagery is designed and amplified due to the possibility and desire for easy money and not necessarily adventure or entertainment. Many gamblers on these apps see money as one of the social discriminators and are just wishing for the jackpot.


A small win is enough to amplify the flight of their dreams and exponentially enhance their chances of further participation. In other terms, move towards the ultimate spiral of addiction and financial doom. None of them likes to listen and acknowledge that, in reality, they are funding others and moving towards addiction. Remember, the house never loses.


I believe playing these team selection based skill games needs no more skill or talent than picking the winning single-digit lottery. It is uncertainty and luck. It is nothing but an open-eyed conscious gamble where past performance is no guarantee of any future performance, and results are entirely luck-based. This is true for the gambler and the players they pick. So, where is the question of skill?


Self-regulation is merely not doing anything illegal. In this case, it is limited to carrying desired mandated warnings. The business inherently wants more and more people to play more and more often. There are no algorithm-driven cut-offs and sudden flag-offs to flash out the out-of-characteristics betting. Just because minor loopholes and legal armour breaches allow the floods to enter, do we open the floodgates? It seems that is the way these apps see it.


In ads, we showcase how the horses worked hard, supported by their close ecosystem to reach the pinnacle of their success, so you can now bet on them. The bigness of a possible win. We keep telling the audience: dream big, and gambling will help you realise their dreams. And someone kidnaps the experts to learn the game of skill. It is so upfront that the most vulnerable audience starts treating it as truth.


Every gambling app defence is it is a game of skill. I know that blackjack, poker and even our local teen patti or chaucer are more skill and less luck-based than making an IPL team. The spate of these app advertisemetns, funding and persuasion- will make it seem like the whole industry is one way or the other connected with these gambling apps.


Knowing that nothing will be achieved. The dice are clearly loaded in favour of the betting apps, and the decision-makers have given them the status of being a Game of Skill.


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