The Legality of Fantasy Sports in India

Fantasy sports has grown at an exponential rate in India, with more consumers becoming active users of fantasy sports apps and websites, as well as hundreds of entrepreneurs tapping into the vast potential offered by the industry in a country. With fantasy sports being labelled a game of skill rather than a field of online gambling, this segment is set to gain more legitimacy and support. Investors, both domestic and foreign, have begun to invest heavily in fantasy sports operators, mainly home-grown ones. With the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown confining the people, mainly millennials, to their homes, many have turned to online avenues to spend their leisure time. And this has contributed to the rise of fantasy sports as an engaging entertainment avenue as well as a lucrative investment.

Despite all this, online game and fantasy sports operators are not bound by a uniform and consistent law to regulate their activities and monitor whether their functioning is not crossing any lines. There have been some recent developments in this field vis-à-vis legislation to regulate the online gaming segment in India.

These are a few of them:

1. Fantasy sports in India is supervised by a self-regulatory body, called The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS).

The objective of the body was to set a standard for fantasy gaming in India, as well as protect consumer interests. A Charter for Online Fantasy Sports Sites, designed and published by FIFS lays out rules and regulations for the member companies. The guidelines of The Internet and Mobile Association of India are also adopted by FIFS to regulate the advertising of fantasy sports operators.

2.  Fantasy sports have been deemed “games of skills” rather than “games of chance.”

Because of this, they have been exempted from the Public Gambling Act. Games in which the performance of users depends on skill and ability are excluded from gambling regulations. 

3. Cash/real money games, cell phone games and e-sports constitute important facets of online gaming.

There have been demands for regulatory bodies that would deal with regulations and monitoring vis-à-vis the online gaming industry. 

4. In 2020, The Advertising Standard Council of India came out with guidelines for real money games.

This sought to make the advertising of real money games safer and responsible.

5. The NITI Aayog, the policy-making think tank of the government, came out with draft guideline proposals for the online fantasy gaming sector.

The objective of the draft proposal was to set up uniform grounds are rules for all online game operators across all the states in the country.

6. The courts in India have also expressed concern over a lack of uniform regulations that would monitor the workings of the online gaming industry in India.

Aggrieved customers could not approach the courts and seek legal recourse and redressal. For the fantasy sports industry to flourish in India, uniform regulatory legislation is a necessity and the government apparatus is working to develop the same.

7. NITI Aayog’s initiative is highly commendable as these guidelines would legitimize the existence and operation of fantasy games in India

A recognition of the sector and incentivization would provide an impetus for market players to expand, innovate and diversify. The guidelines would set certain standards, to avoid market monopoly, promote fair practices and promote the entry of homegrown developers. 

8. NITI Aayog’s move will be a launchpad towards the recognition of the overall sector of online gaming in India.

Covering the whole market segment will become a necessity as the online gaming industry grows and attracts more investors and consumers alike.

With many players, investors and consumers present in the market, a uniform law would reduce many of the legal roadblocks as well as smoothen the operation of the businesses. In addition, these laws would promote and incentivize new entrants into the field and, thus, lead to higher growth and popularity for the segment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *