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Government policy think tank NITI Aayog has recommended setting up a self-regulatory body for online fantasy sports (OFS) in the country.

The think tank made the recommendation in a draft report and said the body should be recognized by the government.

“NITI Aayog has initiated this discussion to examine the fantasy sports industry structure and consider evolving guiding principles that can help the industry grow by adhering to guidelines which are consistent and based on well-recognized principles," according to the report titled: Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India

It noted that the fantasy sports industry in the US was the largest until India overtook it “recently".

“Such a self-regulatory body should be a single-purpose fantasy sports industry body and have membership of online fantasy sports platforms (OFSPs) operators," the report said.

NITI Aayog also noted that regulation for online fantasy sports platforms varies across states, which results in “inconsistent experience" and “risk of forum/jurisdiction shopping". “This may even deprive sports fans in some states of their right to engage actively on these online fantasy sports platforms," according to the report.

“Formal recognition of the fantasy sports industry and providing for principle-led governance would enable Indian online fantasy sports platform operators to focus on innovation and achieve scale and expand their operations in a clear and principle-based regulatory environment," it added.

NITI Aayog’s recommendations are a major show of support for online fantasy sports platforms, which have been embroiled in battles over their legality in various states.

While online fantasy sports in India have attracted investments of more than 1,500 crore from foreign investors over the past few years, its legality is often called into question.

Some states such as Assam, Odisha and Telangana have made fantasy sports illegal, while others such as Tamil Nadu recently passed an ordinance banning “online gaming" without explicitly mentioning fantasy sports.

On the other hand, Nagaland has recognized fantasy sports as games of skill, while Sikkim has a special licence that real money gaming platforms can acquire to function in the state.

Similarly, the Punjab and Haryana and Rajasthan high courts have specifically passed rulings that recognize fantasy sports as games of skill, though none of these legally qualify as a countrywide law.

The Supreme Court is yet to give its opinion on the matter.


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