Fantasy Sports In India – A Legal Insight

INTRODUCTION

Gaming and technology have always been popular amongst the youth, but in recent times, not just youth but adults are also showing interest in it. Fantasy sports are those virtual platforms that allow you to play with a real life-like experience and enjoy the gaming hemisphere. In India there has been a great boom in the zone of fantasy games lately, youngsters just don’t use it to pass their time but also adults are highly using it as a mode of recreation.

Some of these gaming platforms also allow you to withdraw the winning points as actual money and lets you earn, which makes such platforms even more popular among people. Play and earn is one of the easiest ways of earning and who wouldn’t like that!

FANTASY SPORTS IN INDIA

The first platform to bring out fantasy sports was Dream11, which started a league in the sector of fantasy games in India. Since then, many more platforms such as “MPL, BalleBaazi, MyTeam11, etc.” have been introduced in the Indian Market. On one side where these platforms have seen such huge growth, on the other side, six states including Assam, Odisha, Telangana, Nagaland, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh have banned the use of fantasy sports.

As per a survey conducted by LocalCircles (an online community platform), the majority of people wanted the Indian govt to codify the online fantasy sports (OFS) platform. People showed their concern towards the ongoing trend of fantasy games and said that “online fantasy sports advertising should be made more responsible; 57% want celebrities to also talk about the risk of loss in ads. Around 20% respondents said celebrities should be barred from advertising for such platforms, 17% said platforms should not be permitted to show advertisement”.

GROWTH IN INDIAN MARKET

As per the global reports, India has been one of the top five countries with the highest growing virtual user base. Over 365 million people have been actively participating in these virtual gaming platforms. With the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns, there has been rapid growth in this sector, more and more people are indulging in as well as new companies are also launching their apps and platforms for fantasy sports.

The rise in this sector has been really fast, both the app makers and consumers are going well along with the flow.

THE LEGALISATION OF OFS PLATFORM

As per Schedule VII of the Indian Constitution, Fantasy games have not been acknowledged as a subject yet. The Constitution however concedes both gambling and betting as an issue of the legislature and includes “List II, Entry 34 of the Seventh Schedule”, granting the authority to state to constitutionalize on the issue.

The Constitutionality of the Fantasy Sports app in India eventually boils down to either the game can be certified as a ‘game of skill’ or ‘game of chance’. In India, the game that calls for a notable extent of mathematical skills i.e., 50 per cent or above is recognized as a “game of skill” and are legalised by gambling rules of the state. Insofar, games of chance lie under the heading of “gambling,” as they are regulated by state gambling legislation. As per the investigation of the Court, Dream 11 was regarded as of ‘game of skill’ and was hence declared legitimate.

CASE LAWS

  • Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh 

Facts: Mr Varun Gumber (complainant) was an enlisted user of the Dream 11 App. He made a transaction of INR 50,000 for taking part in different leagues that were listed on the app. The complainant ended up using all his credits to form his desired online cricket and football team, also took part in the contests provided by the Dream 11 app. Discontented, the complainant claimed in his appeal before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the fantasy sports games of Dream 11 app as “gambling under the Public Gambling Act, 1867” and were not skill-based at all.

Judgment: “In 2017, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Shri Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh and Ors.  held that a fantasy sports game predominantly based on skill requires considerable judgment and discretion.”

  • State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana & Ors

Facts: Respondent and five other people were found playing rummy for stakes in a club raided by the police, the treasurer was holding the money that was at stake and the secretary of the club was not present in the club at that time. They were held convicted by the trial court.

Judgment: In the appeal to High Court, the judgment of the trial court was set aside as the court said, “that this club was a common gambling house as a fee of 5 points per game was charged by the club, the playing-cards were supplied at an extra charge of Rs. 3, there was a sitting fee of Re. 1 per person who joined the game, and if the game continued beyond a certain time, a late fee was levied; and further that the presumption under Section 7 of the Gambling Act had not been repelled; but on the other hand, it had been confirmed by the making of this charge by the club.”

CONCLUSION

The growth of technology is a need of the hour and fantasy gaming is also a part of the technology. Fantasy gaming is either “skill-based” or “gamble” is still an issue of debate, different people have different approaches to it. Pros and Cons are a part of everything but looking at a positive aspect, this platform has brought the less focused sports by the youth more into their focus. Also, with the engagements driving towards it, it’s a great chance for tech-based companies to build something new that holds great opportunities in the future.

By:

Aakriti Saini

Chandigarh University

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