Over the past 30 years, the global gaming entertainment industry has experienced a significant and dynamic shift from offline to online gameplay. This shift has given rise to a rapidly evolving global gaming “ecosystem” comprised of multiple stakeholders, including players, game developers and designers, streaming platforms, broadcasters, sponsors, esports tournaments, fans, parents, government regulators, and celebrities. Based on the official website of the International Esports Federation (“IeSF”), global esports revenues rose to over USD 1.1 billion in 2019. In the same year, the 2019 Southeast Asian Games officially recognized esports as a medal event.
In Thailand, online gaming has steadily gained in popularity since 2013 with the formation of the Thai Esports Association (later re-named the Thailand Esports Federation (“TeSF”)), which regularly sponsors Thai players to compete in overseas esports tournaments arranged by the IeSF. In 2017, the Sports Authority of Thailand officially decreed esports as a type of sport capable of registration as a “sports association” under the Sports Authority of Thailand Act B.E. 2558 (2015). However, despite its increasing popularity, Thailand has not yet enacted any legislation dealing specifically with online games and esports. Currently, the only relevant legislation is the Film and Video Act B.E. 2551 (2008) (“FVA”), but its jurisdiction stretches only to video games recorded in physical format (e.g. CD, DVD, cassette, etc.), and does not extend to online games.
The widespread use of online games and esports has led to concerns from parents, teachers, and government agencies about the potential harmful impact of online gaming and esports on the health of children. As a result, the National Health Assembly passed Resolution No. 11 B.E. 2561 (2018) (“Resolution”) under the National Health Act, the main focus of which was the effect of esports on the well-being of children. The Cabinet considered and passed the Resolution in 2019, and ordered the relevant government agencies and stakeholders to strictly enforce the relevant legislation regarding such matters. However, due to the lack of legislation governing online games and esports, the relevant government agencies and stakeholders, with the support of the Thailand Science Research and Innovation, commenced research on the drafting of legislation concerning the regulation of online and offline gaming in Thailand.
The Draft Regulation of Gaming Business and Supervision for the Protection of Children and Juveniles Act (“Draft Gaming Act”) has been prepared by the National Health Commission Office and other relevant stakeholders, with the following three main principles guiding the drafting process:
- TeSF to set out the safety standards for esport contests and to protect minors on their gameplay behavior (which includes game rating, if applicable);
- The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security shall set up a public meeting forum to conduct research and exchange ideas and knowledge in order to accurately understand the concept of “games” and “esport”; and
- Surveillance and supervision of the behavior of game players in Thailand to ensure that game playing does not hinder their health and cause a negative effect to the degree that may cause social problems.
The Draft Gaming Act itself, which will be designed to directly regulate online games and esports, is set to have five main parts, as follows:
The Draft Gaming Act is still in its early stages of legislative drafting development with no official draft published, and thus is subject to change in the near future.
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I Ting Liu