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Ethical Perspectives on Online Gaming

  • 08 Nov 2023
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: GST on Online Gaming

For Mains: Online Gaming Market in India, Issues Related to Online Gaming.

Source: TH

Why in News?

The recent case of suspension of a Police Sub-Inspector (PSI) in Pune, Mahrastra highlights complex ethical concerns surrounding online gaming and the responsibilities of a law enforcement officer.

What are the Ethical Implications Surrounding the Officer's Participation in Online Gaming?

  • Arguments In Favor of Officer's Involvement in Online Gaming
    • Personal Freedom and Individual Rights: The officer, like any other citizen, has the right to engage in legal recreational activities during personal time.
      • The officer's use of personal funds for legal recreational activities, including online gaming, falls under their discretionary spending and financial autonomy.
    • Adherence to Legal Norms: If the online gaming activity is legally permissible and the officer complies with the law, their engagement is within the framework of legal norms and should be respected as part of individual autonomy.
    • Mitigation of Stress: Online gaming, like any leisure activity, might serve as a stress-relieving tool, providing a mental escape and relaxation from the pressures of the job.
  • Ethics Issues Involved:
    • Violation of Organizational Standards:
      • Breach of Code of Conduct: Engaging in online gaming without permission from the unit commander breaches the established code of conduct within the Maharashtra State Police, indicating a disregard for institutional regulations.
      • Conflict with Professional Norms: Ethically, the officer's participation in online gaming during duty hours conflicts with the expected professionalism and ethical standards required within law enforcement.
    • Negative Public Image and Trust Implications:
      • Public Perception and Trust Erosion: Media interviews discussing personal victories in uniform undermine public confidence in the officer's professional integrity and the broader image of law enforcement, potentially eroding trust in the police force.
      • Impact on Organizational Credibility: Ethically, such conduct damages the credibility and reputation of the entire police force, as the officer's actions are reflective of the institution, impacting its overall image and public trust.
    • Role Model Expectations and Ethical Responsibilities:
      • Role as a Public Figure: Ethically, as a law enforcement official, the officer is a public figure and is expected to serve as a role model, setting an example of ethical behavior and responsible conduct.

What are the Broader Ethical Issues Revolving Around Online Gaming?

  • Addiction and Mental Health: Concerns arise from the addictive nature of certain online gaming activities, potentially leading to compulsive behavior, neglect of responsibilities, and adverse effects on mental health.
  • Financial Risk and Vulnerability: Individuals, particularly vulnerable demographics, might face financial risks, leading to debt or economic hardship due to excessive spending on gaming, raising ethical questions about responsible consumer engagement and corporate duty of care.
  • Exploitation of Vulnerable Users: Ethical concerns emerge about the potential exploitation of susceptible users who may be lured into spending beyond their means, highlighting the need for protective measures and corporate social responsibility.
  • Regulatory Ambiguity and Legal Definitions: The distinction between skill-based gaming and gambling lacks clear definitions, leading to regulatory ambiguity, ethical debates, and varied interpretations about the nature of these gaming activities.
  • Corporate Responsibility and User Well-being: Gaming companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure that their platforms do not exploit users or foster addictive behaviors, prioritizing user well-being over profit motives.
    • Ethical considerations revolve around promoting responsible gaming practices, protecting users, and offering resources for addiction prevention and support.
  • Impact on Social Norms: Ethical dilemmas emerge regarding the normalization of excessive gaming behavior in society, potentially altering social norms and behaviors, particularly among younger demographics.


Recently, the Finance Ministry of India announced a 28% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on online money gaming, casinos, and horse racing.

Way Forward

  • Regarding Conduct of Professionals:
    • Clear Organizational Policies: Establish clear and unambiguous guidelines within law enforcement agencies regarding off-duty conduct, specifying permissible and non-permissible activities, especially related to online gaming.
    • Ethical Training and Education: Provide ethical training and education to law enforcement officials, emphasizing the importance of upholding ethical conduct both on and off duty, ensuring they understand the impact of their actions on public perception.
    • Strengthened Codes of Conduct: Review and strengthen existing codes of conduct to address modern-day challenges, including guidelines for engaging in recreational activities, maintaining professional image, and the use of social media in uniform.
    • Support and Counseling Services: Provide support services and counseling for officers, addressing stress and promoting healthy coping mechanisms to mitigate stress, considering the challenging nature of their profession.
  • Regarding Online Gaming:
    • Clear Legal Definitions: Establishing clear distinctions between skill-based gaming and gambling, ensuring precise legal definitions to guide regulatory measures uniformly across states.
    • Collaborative Governance and Oversight: Collaborate with gaming companies to promote responsible gaming practices, emphasizing user protection, addiction prevention, and measures to mitigate financial risks among users.
    • Comprehensive Research and Analysis: Invest in extensive research on the psychological and socio-economic impacts of online gaming, facilitating evidence-based policymaking and the development of effective regulatory measures.
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