Editor's Note: This is third part of Madhyamam's investigative series on online gambling and online games like rummy
All of us were ready to try our hand in new things to fight the dreariness of lockdown. This turned out to be a gold mine for online gambling firms. Youths to homemakers became victim to these firms. A study conducted by National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Banglore found that during the covid induced lockdown the online game addiction increased up to 30 per cent in the age group of 16 to 20.
July last year, Adv A P Suryaprakasham from Chennai filed a petition at Madras High Court, against cricketer Virat Kohli and actor Tamannah Bhatia who were promoting online gambling. Actors like Prakash Raj, Rana Dagubbatti were also in the online gambling game ads. Some Malayalam actors were also spotted in the scene. Aju Varghese of Malayalam film industry ended up in a controversy when he shared an ad promoting online rummy on his Facebook page. If a commoner tried his luck on the game after this level of promotion, there is nothing to be surprised.
There is this game which sounds similar to IPL when its name is heard. But instead of playing in the ground the game run in your phone. If you get tempted by its offer of one lakh, you are trapped. There are more than 30 games. No matter how hard one plays, one will never win much through this app, says a youth who played various tournaments in this app for two months. Sometimes the gamer receives tokens instead of money as wins. Using it, he could play again. The gamer could not use this money or bonus unless he won the amount equal to his deposit in the app. If one tries to withdraw his winnings while there is still money in his wallet, the game stops citing network issues. When the server's connection gets reinstated, the gamer would have lost his wallet balances, testifies some users.
In 2019 the app organised a large chess tournament. Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand was appointed for its promotion. The prize money promised was five lakhs. The game received 2000 per cent growth in the following months.
Gimmicks for attraction
While corona flared worldwide, online games recorded a growth rate of 21 per cent in 2020 from mid-March. In 2019 alone, the online gaming industry grew 40 per cent and reached an income of 6500crores. The number of gamers reached 36crores which is greater than the population of the United of America. Between 2014 and 2020, investors' total investment in this industry stood at about 2700crores. The unlucky lot who plays this game investing there hard-earned money became poorer while the online gambling app owners reaped billions.
Online rummy didn't happen yesterday just like that. It was there for the past 12 years, according to The Online Rummy Federation CEO, Mr Sameer Barde. There are seven lakh registered gamers. Federation replied the criticisms that they never allow underages to play the game and there is an option for them to back out. But they know that addicted players never stop their efforts before regaining their lost money in the game. Underage gamers register themselves with inflated ages and use their parents' credit card or bank accounts to withdraw money.
Bad influence of Vloggers
A while ago, people used to ask others to clear doubts or simply google it. But nowadays, Youtube became the trending tutor. Youtube videos have a heterogenous range from cooking to baking to teaching gun firing.
Some Youtube vloggers, who have hundreds of followers, are promoters of online gambling games. Their videos look so tempting that one may feel that these games are a piece of cake. They led people into online gambling, who never touched a real set of playing cards in their entire life.
The apk files you find
Even though you have to install the app in your phone to play, you never find it in the Google Play Store. Instead, you are supposed to download apk (Android Package Kit) files and install it. The gaming firm says that because of the technical issues with the developer terms of google, they removed it from play store. Thirty per cent of the profit of an app in Google Play Store belongs to Google. Apple app store also has a similar policy.
An app should ensure security and privacy criteria to get Google Playstore's approval. These online games would not want to follow such conditions, obviously. To install an apk file on your phone, you have to allow 'unknown sources' in phone settings. But this would lead your phone getting hacked. The app developers could snoop on your phone and the game itself while playing in it.