The IPL (Indian Premier League) season hits the Indian cricket fans like a train when the whole country goes into a state of trance binging on non-stop cricketing action and highlights for almost 2 months.
The craziness doesn’t end there! The introduction of fantasy sports platforms and apps — like Dream 11 — has allowed die-hard cricket lovers and aficionados to be closer to the game where they get to participate and win cash!
I’m sure many of you were taken aback by that last bit, “win cash!”
So, just because these fantasy sports platforms indulge in a bit of give-and-take of cash, does that categorise them as gambling? But, since gambling is illegal in India, how are these apps allowed to operate?
Questions, I have the answers to.
What Are Fantasy Sport Games?
Fantasy sport games are online/offline team building games which involve individuals to draft a team from a particular list of players based on certain conditions and rules. The same players participate in a live sporting event where the users receive points based on each of the player's performance.
In order for people to win rewards on this platform, users have to pay an entry fee to participate in a competition where the amount is pooled in for distribution among others after deduction of a service/administrative fee by fantasy sports games providers.
Points are awarded to users based on how their players perform on the field. The person who accumulates maximum points with his selected bunch of players wins the pool.
One of the best examples of this kind of sport is Fantasy Premier League which is based on the English football league aka Barclay’s Premier League. This is a free-to-play form of service and users from all over the world participate in this game.
A similar Indian version of this app is Dream 11 which is based on a freemium/paid model. Users can make teams from various sporting activities around the world and earn cash rewards by making maximum points off their respective teams.
How Big is the Indian Fantasy Sports Market?
The fantasy games market in India has plenty of takers especially after the boom of sports in India. Primary instigators have been sporting events like the IPL and the ISL (Indian Super League).
Around 1999-2000, ESPN Star, a venture no more, had set up India’s first fantasy sports game called Super Selector. It met its sad demise around the time IPL was introduced.
Currently, there are around 80 platforms which support fantasy sports although many of them still function on the free-to-play model. The pay-to-play model however has been around for a while now.
Dream 11 and FanMojo are a similar apps which invite users to enter their teams into competitions where they can bet from as low as Rs 13 to as high as Rs 50,000 in a game.
According to a recent KPMG report, cricket dominates the consumption of fantasy sports in India with 54 percent of users being involved in a free-to-play model while major chunk of the remaining 46 percent reinvest their winnings in future games.
The money can be transferred using credit/debit cards and even digital wallets like Paytm. Winning from the competitions are automatically debited or credited to you depending how your players performed.
Since the platform is regulated by the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming — which is a private body — they have the responsibility to make sure that the sport remains a game of skill and not become a game of chance. Else, it could face legal consequences.
Many of these fantasy apps also let you bet on international cricket and football matches and even domestic football games overseas. If there’s live sport happening, it’s bound to take place on a fantasy sports app too.
Game of Chance or Skill?
Fantasy sport games require a certain bit of effort and dexterity on the part of the users if they want to win. The users need to be constantly updated on the player’s availability, fitness, skill level and special abilities. There is a ton of research which goes into making an efficient team.
Hence, success in a fantasy sport game depends a lot on the user’s skill rather than luck.
According to a report by the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming, there have been a few international cases wherein various courts have taken into account recent academic studies and legal precedents and held that fantasy sports games are games preponderantly of skill and not games of chance alone, subject to certain conditions.
Most card games like Black Jack or Teen Patti are based on luck, which is why they come under the umbrella of gambling and are illegal in India.
However, Rummy is a card game that has been given the green flag under the Public Gaming Act (PGA) and isn’t covered under anti-betting laws of the country. There is still a lot of ambiguity around whether Poker is legal in India or not.
Is Participating in Fantasy Sports Gambling?
The Indian judicial system has very stringent laws when it comes to gambling. As per the Constitution of India, the state governments have been given the authority to make laws on betting and gambling.
As stated above, sports fantasy games fall under the category of games which require skill. Since the PGA distinguishes between putting money on a game of skill versus a game of chance, fantasy games are legal to play in India.
To add to the above, the anti-gambling laws of most Indian states exempt ‘games of mere skill’. However, states like Telangana, Assam and Odisha do not permit the playing of ‘games of skill’ for money.
In the eyes of Indian law, the fantasy sports ecosystem in India is a business activity with due registration and all legal formalities in place. It also pays service and income tax which is why there is nothing illegal about it.
Future of Fantasy Sport Games in India?
The current user base of fantasy sport games players is growing on a daily basis. The fact that these platforms give the opportunity to win cash prizes is always an alluring factor.
But since cash is involved there are always chances of things getting out of hand. According to a report in the Scroll, last year in July, the Law Commission has submitted a report which recommended regulating gambling and betting in sports such as cricket.
However, not too long after that, the Law Commission turned on its statement saying that legalising betting and gambling is not desirable in the present scenario.
So, what is to be the future of fantasy sports games in India?
I presume they will keep rising adding more and more people to their platform until it will reach a threshold garnering massive transactions and loads of cash. This is where the government will step in and impose regulations on these platforms. Remember what happened with the crypto-currency market in India?
That’s how I see it! What about you?
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