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Fantasy Sports being merged with Online Gambling: An Indian Perspective

*Written by Parth Vashishtha



INTRODUCTION:


In India, trends come in make their mark and leave, this has been the effect of the fast-moving and fast-changing lifestyle that has been the adapted lifestyle of the youth in India. One of these latest trends has been the inclusion of Fantasy Gaming in the midst. Fantasy Gaming in its true sense means, “the type of Online Sport where the player creates or assembles an imaginary team composed of representations of real players of a professional sport such as Kabaddi, Hockey, Soccer, Cricket, etc.” This in simpler terms means by using one’s knowledge about the game and his own sporting acumen the said person creates a team to earn fantasy points which later can be withdrawn as credit money. There are various applications which have come up with different user interfaces to support this trend and facilitate the users in this parameter. Applications like Dream11, MPL and My Team 11 have been the most used ones, primarily because of the mover’s advantage they had and plus the user-friendly interface they have provided. These applications engage in contests starting from the bare minimum amount and in rewards giving the maximum amount. This principle of low risk and high reward has attracted a lot of users to join in and try their luck. Primarily, because of the money factor involved in these gaming applications, people have the tendency to juxtapose fantasy gaming with gambling and as a result, have caused grave negative campaigning and have attached a demeaning connotation to fantasy gaming. Gambling in its true sense means that your fate and money are dependent on an unforeseen event in a particular sport. The main difference opined by theorists between fantasy gaming and gambling is that the former is a ‘game of skill’ and the latter is a ‘game of chance’. These learned theorists have also commented that “fantasy gaming is an evolutionary episode in the culture of Indian sports”.[1] Moreover, fantasy gaming is played at a much larger level than gambling as gambling is usually done amongst two people and whoever loses the bet has to pay the money to the other person in fantasy gaming the credit is done by a third party which in this context is the application which supervises the whole transaction.


EVOLUTION OF FANTASY SPORTS:


Fantasy gaming first was seen in the land of the United States in the year 1952, but back then it could not prosper as the niche of the subject was very weak amongst the mass populous. It was in the late 1990s and early 2000s when ESPN launched their super selector contest that the interface was liked and widely used by the generic public. In India, on the contrary, fantasy gaming was considered to be a refined version of gambling till the 2010s. Later on, when the information was spread through the horse’s mouth about the game of skill, that is when the people of the country looked at it from a different point of view. Over the past decade, technology has played a part in bridging the gap between dreams and the number of opportunities in the Indian fantasy gaming industry. Though being one of the last entrants in the fantasy sector, India has seen an upsurge in user activation and subscription that no one ever fathomed. Fantasy gaming is now not only a source of leisure but it has brought the public which was previously very distant from the real game. a lot closer. The sense of excitement and nerves as a viewer has been majorly upped by the introduction of fantasy gaming. This has acted as a catalyst in the already booming Indian sports industry. With every new season of IPL, PKL, and ISL coming there are new applications with better opportunities and advanced interfaces coming to the aid of the public and coming with enhanced features and resources.[2]

One of the applications which have gained the most users in minimal time has been Dream11 followed by applications like Mycircle11 and MyTeam11. Since the sector of Indian fantasy gaming has been seen to achieve such heights it is important to have a regulatory framework behind the scene which can overlook the policies of fair play and an ethical work environment. For the same purpose, “The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports” (FIFS) was established so that consumer interests and rights are protected and not violated and also as aforementioned formulate the best set of opportunities available to the consumers. The FIFS has also been a key player in administrating all the ground rules along with publishing a charter for the online fantasy sports platforms.



LEGAL SUPPORT FOR FANTASY GAMING:


In a country like India where people are mostly law-fearing more than law-abiding, there was a stringent need for the people to realise that the judiciary has been nothing short of being extra supportive to the venture that the fantasy gaming sector is to the economy. In this journey, there have been landmark judicial precedents which have been laid down by the honourable courts. One of these landmark cases was Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh[3]. The case of Varun made the High Court of Punjab think pragmatically about how the games in the fantasy sector are predominantly won through judgement and sports knowledge and not through luck like in gambling. The high courts, in this case, referred to other cases which had previously been pivotal in differentiating between ‘game of chance’ and ‘game of skill’. The Punjab and Haryana High Court referred to the Supreme Court’s decision in K.R. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu[4] and quoted from the judgement that, “where the Supreme Court had observed that horse racing required the element of skill, judgment, and discretion of the player, and thereafter held that the game offered by Dream11 was based on skill and thus, did not qualify as gambling”. One more such case that has been a landmark in differentiating between gambling and fantasy gaming is the case of Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India[5], in which the High Court of Bombay laid down the difference that as to in gambling the result of the match concerned matters to decide the winner, but in fantasy sports, the result turns immaterial and the performance of each player selected in the team through the user’s judgement matters. The court, in this case, quoted that, “the contests happening on Dream 11 platform was not dependent on the real-life result of the match's result i.e. upon a winning or losing of the match, so contesting on Dream 11 platform does not constitute to gambling”.


Apart from these judicial precedents, there are three legislations which have backed up the propaganda of fantasy sports and beck the legality sector in the gaming sector. Firstly, the Information Technology Rules 2021 Section 4 (1) (b) (ii), the IT rules state that, the rules and regulations, privacy policy or user agreement of the intermediary shall inform the user of computer resource not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information that is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another's privacy, including bodily privacy, insulting or harassing on the basis of gender, libellous, racially or ethnically objectionable, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise inconsistent with or contrary to the laws of India. The interface in any of the Fantasy gaming applications does not violate any of the mentioned conditions in the IT rules and because of that, it has been upheld in the judgements made by different courts in the country. Moreover, the Public Gambling Act of 1867 also recognises Fantasy gaming as different from gambling as it penalises and prohibits any game on chance and luck and upholds games of skill. Lastly, The Constitution of India 7th Schedule [Entries 34 & 62 of the State List]. The Indian Contract Act, 1872 Agreements[16] talk about contracts borne out of acts of wager would be void and will also not be legally enforceable.[6]


SPORTS PERSONALITY ENDORSEMENT:


The endorsement done by sports athletes in the various Fantasy Gaming applications has raised the levels of its reach and has been a catalyst in the promotion strategy of the applications. The justification for why Fantasy Sports are developing at a quick speed in India is on the grounds that these famous people sportsperson have an immense fan following and have high impacting power and assuming they underwrite a specific application their devotees are most likely going to attempt that and furthermore there is a progression on the Internet as time passes and Internet and Smartphones both are becoming less expensive and reasonable to the public at a huge so these are the significant purposes for the blasting of E-Sports Industry in India. With the increase in popularity of the Fantasy Sports platform, there is also an increase in the number of partnership opportunities which come across them for endorsement. Fantasy sports do partner with athletes on a contractual basis to endorse their platforms so that it becomes more popular among the public. The success of the Fantasy Sports platform also depends upon the fan following and influencing the capacity of the athlete.


The more influencing the athlete, the better the chances of success of the fantasy sports platform. The best example of the above-mentioned line is the success of Dream 11 & Mobile Premier League. Former Indian Cricket Team Captain M.S Dhoni is the brand ambassador of Dream11 platform, he is a great personality as the whole world knows about him, moreover, he has 30.9 million followers on his Instagram account and 8.2 million followers on his Twitter account, moreover, the present captain of Indian Cricket Team Virat Kohli has 104 million followers on Instagram & 41.1 Million followers on Twitter and currently he is the brand ambassador of Mobile Premier League; So, we can clearly acknowledge from their fan bases that how much influence they can have on the audience if they are endorsing any product. These data provide us with a rough number of how these world-renowned superstar sportspeople have upped the number of users that have registered and stayed on the application because of their favourite players endorsing them. [7]


All these things in culmination have resulted in the generic public perceiving fantasy sports very differently but there are a lot of things to be amended and changed for this sector to go forward. The foresight of the developers is very simple and straight forward the more basic and amicable the interface for the users the more it will attract new users and these will be the aspects which customers will stick to the venture of Fantasy Gaming.



CONCLUSION:



There has forever been a tussle between the talent-based contest and the game being a replacement for a shot in the dark. Not many individuals actually accept that fantasy sports are a shot in the dark while half of the populace has a conviction straightforwardly or in a roundabout way that fantasy sports are a talent-based contest that requires understanding, estimation, and expertise of a person to play the sport. So, it's about time for the legal executive primarily, the Supreme Court to finally pen down its verdict and the government to have systematized regulation for the guideline of imagination sports and web-based betting in India and for the legal executive to start trends in our nation connected with dream sports and betting by giving milestone decisions. E-Sports is without a doubt a remunerating area in India and with the development of innovation and simple accessibility of versatile information it is blasting in India at a fast speed, so there is a need to control the E-Sport industry by classified regulation which explicitly fills this need and Fantasy sport is one of the e-sports which is played in India at a gigantic scope.[8]


To conclude the analysis, quoting a prudent perspective would be that we have already been late in laying down stringent rules for the application of Fantasy gaming in India but as and when the rules are laid down it will clear out the air and noise about the dilemma the non-existence has created and only then we will see the real growth, hype and reach of Fantasy Gaming.









*The author is a law scholar at Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat, India.









(The image used here is for representational purposes only)






References:

[1] Bhatti, Ayushi. “The Evolution of Fantasy Sports in India: From Past to Present.” KreedOn, January 12, 2022. https://www.kreedon.com/rise-of-fantasy-sports-in-india-e-sports-past-to-present-growth/?amp#Growth_of_Fantasy_sports_in_India. [2] Conventus Law, - Nilo T. Divina - DivinaLaw, and - Souvik Ganguly - Acuity Law. “Online Fantasy Sports in India: A Shift towards Uniform Legal Approach.” Conventus Law, May 18, 2021. https://conventuslaw.com/report/online-fantasy-sports-in-india-a-shift-towards/. [3] Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh MANU/PH/1265/2017 [4] K.R. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu AIR 1996 SC 1153 [5] Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India Bombay HC, 30 Apr. 2019 [6] Rajiv, Post author By Abhishek, and Name (required). “Analysing Online Fantasy Sports Gaming in India.” NUALS Law Journal, November 3, 2020. https://nualslawjournal.com/2020/11/03/analysing-online-fantasy-sports-gaming-in-india/. [7] “The Evolving Landscape of Sports Gaming in India.” Accessed April 28, 2022. https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/in/pdf/2019/03/online-gaming-india-fantasy-sports.pdf. [8] ) J. Sagar Associates. “Niti Aayog's Guiding Principles for Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms - Gaming - India.” NITI Aayog's Guiding Principles For Regulation Of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms - Gaming - India. JSA, February 3, 2021. https://www.mondaq.com/india/gaming/1032772/-niti-aayog39s-guiding-principles-for-regulation-of-online-fantasy-sports-platforms?score=41.