Thanks to the mass availability of mobile interfaces with easy access to the Internet in India, the fantasy sports sector has witnessed unprecedented growth in the previous decade. It is an industry that entices not only clients but also venture capital and private equity investors. Statistical Researches have confirmed a $5 billion growth for the sector in the upcoming two years.
Before diverging into the legitimacy of the fantasy sports sector in India, let’s first plunge into the basic perception of fantasy sports, its growth timeline in India, and how it is different from gambling.
A fantasy sport is a type of gaming enterprise where players model teams of professional players of a specific sport, using the internet. The game then unfolds against the teams utilising the actual performance statistics of the members.
Indian fantasy sports
The sector flourished after the conception of fantasy games and apps during the Indian Premier League of 2008. Though fantasy games are open for all other game formats such as football, kabaddi, badminton, and hockey, fantasy cricket league tops the chart with immense popularity among the cricket-frenzy Indian crowd.
Dream 11 is one such fantasy sports startup that has a huge turnover and brand value in India. The game achieved unicorn status and with an estimated worth of $1.1 Billion. Dream 11 has a series D funding and is backed by Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company.
Some of the other popular websites are Mobile Premier League (MPL), Scoring 11, Halaplay, 11 Wickets, etc.
Are fantasy games synonymous to gambling?
As a country which imposes stringent laws on gambling, gamers and entrepreneurs should be familiarised with distinctions and legality that set apart gambling and fantasy games.
Fantasy sports in India are regarded as a ‘game of skill’ and not ‘game of chance’. Hence, fantasy sports are not classified in the gambling sector. The Indian legality of fantasy sports, therefore, confirms that the game doesn’t violate the terms stated under The Public Gambling Act of 1867.
The judgment has been put forward, considering two crucial factors:
- When the bill was formulated, the omnipresence of cyberspace was nonexistent. Hence there is no stern section under the law that states fantasy sports as unconstitutional
- Fantasy sports, being categorised as a game of skill, doesn’t fit into the definitions set for gambling. So is the case with poker and rummy, which is why they are legal in India
- Wagering and betting were prohibited in India because they infringe the sections stated under the Gambling Act of 1867. Sikkim is the only state which has distinct terms for online gambling and sports betting.
After the sequel of the IPL’s spot-fixing, the bench appointed to look into the matter has requested to legalise sports betting in India. The Supreme Court of India has consulted with the law commission to examine this matter and assist the government in making an informed decision.
Until a uniform law regulates the sector, obtaining a license could prove challenging for owners in the Indian gaming landscape.
Legislation on online games in India
Though India has let half-doors open for online games and online casinos, not all states in India have wholeheartedly accepted them. The rules of Sikkim have introduced the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008, and the state of Nagaland has Prohibition of Gambling Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016 which govern the online games and online casino. These laws ensure a monitored platform that regulates the functioning of these sectors.
The IPL Fantasy league was a massive hit among the cricket-loving crowd of India. The daily challenges of forming IPL teams and competing against each other keeps the group engrossed and on their toes. The prizes for the game include autographed souvenirs like bats and toss coins, which all comply with the legal restrictions in India.
Operating a fantasy game website in India is legal, but it should be compliant with specific legal restrictions. As long as there are no stakes, lottery or gambling involved, fantasy sports and games can be run legitimately in India without any complications. The biggest hurdle posed for entrepreneurs in this field would be the non-uniformity of rules across different states.
As the sector attains almost 100 million users by the end of 2019, the Indian landscape looks assuring for its continued growth in the future.