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COVID curbs, better reach, cheap data plans drive craze for online rummy

Anup Jayaram     December 13, 2020

One of the big gainers during the coronavirus pandemic is online gaming -- be it fantasy or real money games. While fantasy gaming is largely driven by the Indian Premier League (IPL), the rise of real money gaming surged during the initial phase of the lockdown in April-May. Since then, growth has been better than in 2019. In the initial phase of the slowdown, the demand surged 100 per cent.

Within real-money games, it is traditional card games such as rummy that has seen a rise in demand. "This is like a fresh start for us. The rummy market is already there. What we are looking to do is expand our share of the market," says Shivnandan Pare, who took over as CEO, Adda52Rummy in the middle of the pandemic.

The rise of online gaming has been aided by deeper penetration and cheaper mobile data plans. That's how the traditional card game of rummy took off in its digital avatar. In 2017, Delta Corp acquired Gauss Networks, which operated Adda52. Today Delta Corp is India's only listed gaming company. Gaming is not new for Pare, who was part of the team that set up Reliance Entertainment's gaming platform Zapak nearly 15 years ago.

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Pare states that while demand for real-money games has risen, there are issues with the curbs imposed in various states. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have imposed a ban on real-money games. Says Pare: "While there is greater demand for card games like rummy in south India, we have to ensure that players are geofenced so that they do not violate state norms."

The big debate is whether rummy is a game of skill or chances. Way back in 1968, the Supreme Court had opined that rummy is a game of skill. Rummy has always been a card game in many families and has been that way for decades. That's what online rummy providers are banking on, but many states are not willing to listen. Until that happens, online rummy could be a regional game. How the southern states react could well be the decider for the Rs 2,500 crore game.

The monetisation of games is based on the facilitation fee charged as a percentage of the total money that is wagered by consumers. Players can collect the winnings through regular online payment mechanisms and wallets.

Also read: I&B Ministry issues advisory to broadcasters on online gaming, fantasy sports ads

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