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FANTASY GAMING IN INDIA

March 18, 2021

By Vikrant Rana and Rupin Chopra

What is Fantasy Gaming?

Fantasy sport is a type of online game where participants assemble imaginary or virtual teams of real players of a professional sport. For example, players may select a team or set of players and earn cash rewards based on performance of the selected team or set of players in a given match.

Such apps have gained immense popularity in India and the current COVID-19 situation and post lockdown has further augmented the popularity of fantasy games in India and around the world. According to the report titled ‘The Evolving Landscape of Sports Gaming in India’ by KPMG and IFSG, 71% of those who were surveyed reported to have played Fantasy Cricket Games and 54% reported to have played fantasy football games. The Report states that the number of fantasy sports operators has increased by seven times (~7x) over 2016-2018, whereas the number of users has grown by over twenty five times (~25x) from June, 2016 to February, 2019.

Since these apps closely resemble gambling, their legality has been challenged in several Indian States. To determine whether such sports can be categorized as gambling, the Courts have drawn a distinction between ‘Games of Chance’ and ‘Games of Skill’. While the former refers to gambling, the activities falling within the purview of ‘Games of Skill’ can be excluded from the ambit of gambling in India and therefore, would be considered legal activities.

In Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan vs State Of Tamil Nadu and Anr.[1], the Supreme Court explained that ‘Game of Skill’ is one in which success depends principally upon the superior knowledge, training, attention, experience and adroitness of the player. ‘Game of Chance’ is one in which the element of chance predominates over the element of skill, and a ‘game of skill’ is one in which the element of skill predominates over the element of chance. Thus, it is the dominant element- ‘skill’ or ‘chance’ – which determines the character of the game.

Is Dream 11 fantasy game legal?

The legality of Dream 11, a popular fantasy game app has been upheld by various High Courts in India. For instance, the legality of Dream 11 has been upheld by the Bombay High Court in the case of Gurdeep Singh Sachar vs. Union of India and Ors.[2], by Punjab and Haryana High Court (detailed discussion of judgement can be found here) in Varun Gumber vs. Union Territory of Chandigarh and Ors.[3], by the Rajasthan High Court in the case of Chandresh Sankhla vs. State of Rajasthan and Ors.[4] on the ground that the game involves a substantial degree of skill superior knowledge, judgment and attention and therefore, they do not amount to gambling, for apps to be available to the public on their Apple and Android devices, they must comply with their App Store policies.

Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports

In 2017, fantasy sports app developers have formed Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), a self-regulatory industry body, to protect consumer interest and create standardized best practices in the Fantasy Sports industry.

With mobile gaming becoming increasingly popular and sports events like IPL, Premier League Football, etc. resuming their live games, these apps are going to see rapid increase in their userbase in the coming days.

[1] 1996 SCC (2) 226

[2] CRIMINAL PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION STAMP NO.22 OF 2019

[3] Civil Writ Petition No. 7559 of 2017

[4] D.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 6653/2019

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