Saturday, December 9, 2023

Google Sued by Online Gaming Firm Winzo for Its New Gaming Policy Involving Real-Money Games

Indian online gaming platform Winzo has sued Google to stop the tech giant from allowing real-money games for fantasy sports and rummy on its platform, saying that Google’s doing so was discriminatory, a legal filing seen by Reuters showed.

Winzo offers paid games in those categories but also in many others, such as carrom, puzzels, and car racing, and will therefore not fully benefit from a newly adopted Google policy.

For years, Alphabet unit Google allowed no games involving real money in India, but this month said such games for fantasy sports and rummy could join its Play Store marketplace in India as part of a year-long pilot programme.

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Google said in a policy update that those two categories comprised games in which contestants used their knowledge of athletic events and athletes, strategised or memorised the fall of playing cards. It did not mention other game formats and their treatment.

In its lawsuit filed at the Delhi High Court, Winzo said it had contacted Google on September 10 to contest the updated policy, saying it was “unfair” but had got no response, forcing it to seek court relief.

Winzo’s lawsuit said Google’s decision “amounts to unfair trade practice.”

A source with direct knowledge said the lawsuit had been filed Monday and would be heard in coming weeks.

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Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The legal challenge comes as an Indian government panel has sought creation of a regulatory body to classify online games as based on either skill or chance, introduce rules to block prohibited formats and take a stricter stance on gambling websites.

Foreign investors such as Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital have backed gaming startups Dream11 and Mobile Premier League (MPL), both hugely popular for playing fantasy cricket.

Winzo has about 85 million users in India, it says, adding that, on average, they each spend an hour on its platform daily. The lawsuit shows Winzo recorded annual revenue of about $13 million (roughly Rs. 100 crore) in 2020-21.

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© Thomson Reuters 2022

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