Government think-tank NITI Aayog’s report calling for a single self-regulatory body for fantasy sports has come as a booster news for the industry.
Leading players like Dream11 and Games24x7 (which runs My11Circle) welcomed the move and said it would build the industry credibility. Harsh Jain, chief executive and co-founder of IPL sponsor, Dream11, said the move would act as a “catalyst to this sunshine sector, remove ambiguities, and ensure further credibility for our industry”.
“As India’s first and only self-regulatory industry body for fantasy sports, we have created standards of best practice and consumer grievance redressal mechanism for our member operators and fantasy sports users. These guidelines provide equal opportunities for all operators, protect consumer’s interests and curb any possible malpractices in this sector,” said Bimal Julka, chairman of the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS).
While stakeholders have often argued that fantasy sports is legal and a game of skill, they have still faced multiple battles around legality. “Recently, some cricketers have been unfairly questioned for endorsing fantasy sports platforms. How can brand ambassadors be questioned for endorsing a game that has the validation of courts, governments, and world class academic institutes as a game of skill?” asked Bhavin Pandya, co-founder and CEO of Games24X7, which runs My11Circle, one of the top three fantasy sports platforms in India.
“Formal recognition of the fantasy sports industry and providing for principle-led governance would enable Indian OFSP (online fantasy sports platform) operators to focus on innovation, achieve scale and expand their operations in a clear and principle-based regulatory environment,” the NITI Aayog’s report, titled Guiding Principles For The Uniform National Level Regulation Of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms In India, said last week.
The fantasy sports industry in India has drawn foreign investments worth approximately ₹1,500 crore between 2018 and 2020, according to a July 2020 report by the FIFS
. But , the legality of these businesses has still been under question with states like Assam, Orissa and Telangana choosing to ban them within their borders.
At the same time, high courts in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have passed landmark rulings for the platforms, terming them as games of skill. The Supreme Court is yet to make a decision on the same.
Jay Sayta, who has advised many gaming and mobile app development companies, said NITI Aayog’s recommendations will have persuasive value and can be used as an additional argument by these companies in court. He also said the government should cover the entire gaming industry—which includes Rummy, Poker and more—instead of covering fantasy sports alone.