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With large funding rounds and the birth of a unicorn, fantasy sports sector in India is booming
With large funding rounds and the birth of a unicorn, fantasy sports sector in India is booming

Fantasy gaming gets booster shot from NITI Aayog

With large funding rounds and the birth of a unicorn, fantasy sports sector in India is booming. But, its legality remains hazy. On Friday, NITI Aayog recommended setting up a self-regulatory body for online fantasy sports, in a relief for many such platforms. Mint explores.

With large funding rounds and the birth of a unicorn, fantasy sports sector in India is booming. But, its legality remains hazy. On Friday, NITI Aayog recommended setting up a self-regulatory body for online fantasy sports, in a relief for many such platforms. Mint explores.

How is DFS different from sports betting?

While many argue that Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) platforms simply use the internet to facilitate betting on sports, some high courts have made distinctions. The confusion stems from the fact that betting on sports is illegal in India, and has seen many controversies around it too. While general users distinguish them as betting and fantasy sports, the law differentiates between the games of skill and games of chance, with the latter being illegal in India. Games of chance are games where the outcome is solely dependent on chance, whereas many argue that fantasy sports have an element of skill to them.

Why is the legality of DFS spaces unclear?

According to the Supreme Court of India, games of skill, including rummy and horse-racing, are legal. So, states can take those rulings as the code for the country. However, the SC has stayed away from giving its opinion on the DFS, which makes sense, since states in India are allowed to regulate gambling matters within their borders. Many have cited high court rulings from Punjab & Haryana and Rajasthan, which called fantasy sports games of skill, as proof of their legality. However, on 6 March, SC stayed a Bombay HC order in favour of fantasy sports and is yet to hear the case. Whatever the SC decides is expected to become the law.

Key players
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Key players

Does Government of India have a take on this subject?

While the Centre hasn’t spoken specifically on this matter, there have been ripples. In a draft report titled Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India, NITI Aayog, on Friday, pitched for the formation of a self-regulatory organization to govern fantasy gaming. It added that the organization should be duly recognized.

What have most of the states done thus far?

Assam, Odisha and Telangana have made fantasy sports illegal within their borders. Tamil Nadu, on the contrary, passed an ordinance that bans “online gaming" in the state, but doesn’t explicitly mention DFS platforms. Nagaland, though, has explicitly 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 & Haryana and Rajasthan high courts have passed rulings that recognize fantasy sports as games of skill.

Which are some of the bigger players in India?

The biggest is the Indian Premier League (IPL) sponsor Dream11, the first unicorn in India from this sector, currently valued at over $2 billion. According to a report from the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), Dream11 has over 75 million users, followed by MyTeam11 with over 15 million users and My11Circle with over 13 million users. While Dream11 was formed in 2008, MyTeam11 started in 2017 and My11Circle in 2019. Halaplay, Mobile Premier League, FanFight and Cricplay are other players competing in this market.

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