Despite opposition from political parties in the State, the online rummy market in Tamil Nadu is growing and several thousands of people are logging on to try their hands at the cards.
Companies in this space said there has been a huge spike in the number of people playing this game during the lockdown in March. Ballpark estimates show that each firm has 20,000-25,000 frequent users per month playing rummy on its portal. And these players from Tamil Nadu on an average bet anywhere between ?200 to ?500 per day.
In India, the rummy industry is dominated by a few major players like Rummy Circle, Rummy Passion, JungleeRummy, and ACE2three. Players like PayTM’s gaming vertical, PayTM First Games, and MPL have also started offering rummy on their platforms.
In India, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of this industry with a market size of about ?3,000 crore for the current financial year, is estimated at about 30% . This growth is mainly attributed to the ever-increasing smartphone penetration, affordable data, cultural shifts, and a wide choice of games for players to pick from.
“Due to the lockdown, there is definitely a clear uptick of people turning towards online gaming as a new and exciting form of entertainment and socialising. However, a majority of these players play free games which, in turn, has placed unprecedented pressure on operators in terms of infrastructure and technology. Also, the overall uncertainty and insecurity regarding jobs have made people more prudent in terms of discretionary spending like entertainment,” Sameer Barde, CEO of the Online Rummy Federation (TORF), said.
In Tamil Nadu, around 1-2 lakh users are playing free rummy per month on Junglee Games. Of this, 10,000-20,000 are playing games involving money. Commenting on business during the lockdown, Ankush Gera, founder and CEO of Junglee Games, said, “We saw slight increase in number. The number of users playing free games went up a bunch since this was the way to stay connected with friends. Traditional games like Ludo and Rummy saw an overall uptick,” he added.
According to Games 24×7, the firm that operates RummyCircle, the absolute count of reactivated players grew by more than 100% in April compared to January. The platform has seen a heightened demand (2.5 times increase in player registrations) from North India in April as compared to February 2020. Bhavin Pandya, co-founder & CEO, Games24x7, said, “We get over 50,000 new players from different parts of the country on our platform every day.”
Deepak Gullapalli, the CEO of Ace2Three said the firm had been operating responsibly even during COVID-19 times. His firm has around 17-18 million players across India. “There is a lot of negative perception about the game but we are professionally balanced and we do have checks and balances,” he said. On online rummy platforms, a player doesn’t have to pay. He can play for free, or he can play games for cash prizes. Winnings depend on the entry fee in a game or the point value. Winners are liable for their own taxes—rummy operators deduct TDS as per law on winnings over ?10,000.
Six different rummy players whom The Hindu spoke to said they played the game out of their interest and will. Priya (name changed on request), a housewife who has been playing rummy for the last eight months, said that she spent ?2,000 – ?3,000 per month but hadn’t won a single game till date. “Though the probability of winning is quite low, the game is very addictive. I’m slowly migrating to free games now,” she said.
S. Ankit, a techie, said that some of the rummy firms were funded by private equity players and that’s why he started playing the game. “If I play 20 games I get to win one game,” he added.
When asked about the political opposition on rummy in Tamil Nadu, Sameer Barde of TORF said the Supreme Court of India had recognised that there were certain games where an element of skill was greater than an element of chance thereby making it legal to play online rummy using real money.
“We believe that regulation is the key to ensuring that skill gaming entertainment can be availed by people in a safe, secure, and responsible manner in the country,” he added. Mr. Barde explained that the industry had come together to set up this industry body – The Online Rummy Federation (TORF).
The intention of doing this was to ensure responsible game, a fair playing environment, creating secure platforms for players. Mr.Gera of Junglee Games said that these views largely stemmed from the non-regulated offline world of games of chance where there were very little safeguards that served the players’ interests. “We’re educating anyone who has a negative view on the online gaming world that with strict measures and responsible gaming we are ensuring the future of safe gameplay and entertainment,” he said.
TORF anticipates the online rummy industry to grow at 25% and reach $0.5 billion by 2022.