Regulatory policy

India’s WinZO sues Google to stop new gaming policy, calls it discriminatory

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in Manhattan, New York, U.S. November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo/File Photo

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NEW DELHI, Sept 20 (Reuters) – Indian online gaming platform WinZO has sued Google (GOOGL.O) to stop the tech giant from allowing real-money games for fantasy sports and rummy on its platform, claiming that Google is doing so is discriminatory, a legal filing seen by Reuters showed.

The WinZO application offers real money games in these categories but also in many others that Google still will not accept, such as carrom, puzzles and car racing, and therefore will not be able to benefit from the new policy of Google.

For years, Alphabet Inc’s Google unit hasn’t allowed any games involving real money in India, but this month such games for fantasy sports and rummy could join its Play Store marketplace in the country as part of a one-year pilot program.

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Google said in a policy update that these two categories include games in which competitors use their knowledge of sporting events and athletes, strategize or memorize the fall of playing cards. He did not mention other game formats and their processing.

In its lawsuit filed in the Delhi High Court, WinZO said it contacted Google on September 10 to challenge the updated policy, claiming it was “unfair”.

WinZO received no response, forcing it to seek redress in court, the company’s filing said, which describes Google’s decision as one “amounting to an unfair business practice.”

He further argued that “all games of skill enjoy constitutional protection”.

A source with direct knowledge said the lawsuit was filed on Monday and will be heard in the coming weeks.

Google declined to comment on the lawsuit. The company previously said that through its pilot program it was “taking a measured approach that will help us gather learnings.”

WinZO, which is backed by US venture capital firm Griffin Gaming Partners, has a valuation of over $350 million.

His legal challenge comes as an Indian government panel called for the creation of a regulatory body to categorize online gambling as skill-based or chance-based, to introduce rules to block prohibited formats and to adopt a stricter position on gambling sites. Read more

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

WinZO has about 85 million users in India, it says, adding that on average they each spend one hour on its platform per day. The lawsuit shows that WinZO recorded annual revenue of around $13 million in 2020-21.

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Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil in New Delhi; Editing by Bradley Perrett

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