Where is fantasy sports headed next? The world’s second largest populated country is waking up to this sport, thanks to the growing number of users.
Fantasy sports in the past decade have become more lucrative than ever before in countries such as the United States and United Kingdom. Forbes reported that the American National Football League (NFL) is the most popular fantasy sport in the US and was worth around USD 11 billion in revenue in 2013 alone. In the US and Canada, there are estimated to be around 41 million users that play fantasy sports. Fantasy Premier League, the official fantasy football game based on the English Premier League, with over 3 million users, is one of the most popular fantasy sports games in the UK.
While India has a fair amount of catching up to do, the numbers look positive. The Indian obsession with cricket is certainly no secret. The last few years have also seen a significant rise in the popularity of other sports which has resulted in the introduction of several leagues such as the Indian Super League (ISL) - a national football league in India, The Indian Badminton League and the Pro Kabaddi2 League. The growth in the number of sports enthusiasts is clear from the burgeoning television viewership, advertisements, merchandising, fan clubs and so on, associated with the rise in popularity of such sports in India.
Fantasy sports is an online game, where team owners form virtual teams of real players compete against other fantasy sports owners using the statistical data, generated by performance of real players.
The Supreme Court of India (“Supreme Court”) has interpreted the words “mere skill” to include games which are preponderantly of skill and have laid down that: competitions where success depends on substantial degree of skill will not fall into the category of gambling; and despite there being an element of chance, if a game is preponderantly a game of skill, it would nevertheless be a game of “mere skill”. Thus, games which satisfy the test of “skill versus chance” are not regulated under the Gaming Enactments and may be legally offered through the physical as well as virtual medium (including Internet and mobile) throughout India.
Therefore, one would need to analyze the format of a game of fantasy sports and assess whether it requires higher elements of skill to play the game than mere chance. Presently, there has been no case in India where fantasy sports games have been tested against the principle of skill versus chance. So, in simple words “Games that involve skill do not fall in the gambling category of games in India”.
India can be the next fantasy sports destination owing to growing number of sports fans following several leagues.
/ Sign up on a fantasy sport service/website provider.
/ Create a profile.
/ Choose your favorite sport.
/ Join a league (Public or private).
/ Build a team by drafting players.
/ Join a contest such as H2H, Uncapped etc.
/ Your team competes against other teams in the league.
/ Your team scores points based on the performance of selected players.
/ Winners are announced at the end of the game with the highest score.
Fantasy sports have certainly gained a fair share of traction over the last couple of years in India due to the increasing popularity of sports such as football and Kabaddi coupled with technological advancements in the country. Presently, India has more than 7 million fantasy sports players and it is growing with rapid speed of 30 to 50% per year. As previously explained, playing fantasy sports involves a substantial degree of skill by a user due to numerous factors elucidated above and hence such games should fulfil the “skill versus chance” test and should not attract prohibitions under the Gaming Enactments.
Therefore, India is and should continue to be an attractive destination for foreign fantasy sports operators to expand their operations. With the number of Internet users in India expected to touch 500 million in 2017, with as many as 400 million users accessing the Internet through their mobile phones, India would be an obvious destination and business choice for fantasy sports operators.
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