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

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Exclusive-Scores of Google rivals want EU tech law used in antitrust case - letter Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
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By Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil

NEW DELHI -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 is discriminatory, a legal filing seen by Reuters showed.

WinZO's app offers real-money games in those categories but also in many others that Google still will not accept, such as carrom, puzzles and car racing, and will therefore not be eligible to benefit from the newly adopted Google policy.

For years, Alphabet Inc 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 the country as part of a year-long pilot program.

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 memorized 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 Sept. 10 to contest the updated policy, saying it was "unfair".

WinZO had got no response, forcing it to seek court relief, stated the company's filing, which described Google's decision as one that "amounts to unfair trade practice."

It further argued that "all games of skill enjoy constitutional protection."

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

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

WinZO, which is backed by U.S.-based venture firm Griffin Gaming Partners, has a valuation of more than $350 million.

Its 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, to introduce rules to block prohibited formats and to 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 in 2020-21.

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