Fantasy Gaming: Why FIFS’ Amrit Mathur Thinks Fantasy Sports Isn’t Gambling


It is important to distinguish fantasy sports from online gambling. Technically, fantasy sports are digital sports engagement platforms based on legitimate and vetted sporting events broadcast live in accordance with their respective sports bodies Illustration: Samaeer Pawar
Why Fantasy Gambling Isn't Gambling, by Amrit Mathur
Jhere are over 13 million users playing on over 200 platforms – a phrase one would have often heard while reading articles or indulging in conversations centered around fantasy sports. However, whether fantasy sports qualify as games of “skill” or “chance” is a matter of ambiguity that influences the legal status of fantasy sports platforms within the broader spectrum of online games. line. To clear things up, it can be confidently established that fantasy sports platforms are also recognized by the Supreme Court, having reaffirmed rulings from three different high courts that struck down laws banning fantasy sports under the pretense of gambling. chance or bets. Article 19(1)(g) provides protection for fantasy sports as a legitimate commercial activity.

India has made significant inroads in establishing fantasy sports to become the largest fantasy sports market in the world, surpassing the 50+ year old US fantasy sports market. Fantasy sports companies have started to get noticed, for example, by sponsoring the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Indian Olympic team in 2020 and the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Therefore, if all stakeholders manage to building consensus and making a determined effort, this burgeoning sector promises to emerge as an exemplary model on the global stage as the ‘Atmanirbhar’ initiative in Digital India, literally. This is an opportunity for India to stand out on a global platform and display its soft power.

It is important to distinguish fantasy sports from online gambling. Technically, Fantasy Sports are digital sports engagement platforms based on legitimate and approved sports events broadcast live in accordance with their respective sports bodies. User participation is only possible in real time simultaneously with a sporting event in progress, unlike online gambling which is accessible ad hoc and has a totally different framework where one plays and “bets” on the basis of the “coincidence of chance”. In fantasy sports, victory is a sum of the participant’s intelligence, his ability to analyze the reality of the field and the conscience of the sport, and not simple trials and errors that could lead to victory or the loss.

Over the years, fantasy sports platforms have gained popularity among Indians by bringing global sports within reach of people through digital smartphone penetration and low data rates. While cricket served as the backbone for the establishment of fantasy sports, it also revealed the untapped potential of other underserved sports such as volleyball, football, kabaddi and hockey, thus branching out to create new audiences for the Indian sports ecosystem.

The expertise involved in this segment is not limited to playing fans, but extends to a whole range of skilled professionals working behind the scenes to build these platforms programmed and protected by layers of security. Fantasy sports engage users in a sport and its players, improving sports engagement and amplifying the reach and appreciation of sports nationwide. The digital nature of fantasy sports platforms empowers the growth of multi-sport ecosystems, which could create enormous value in a country with a population of 130 crore, fostering a sports culture across social strata. In fact, it propels the development of future-ready skills in areas such as digital, AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning), cloud and analytics, triggering a ripple effect on the growth of auxiliary sectors. Moreover, the fantasy sports industry is a shining example of the booming Indian startup ecosystem. It is a beacon of hope for sports fans across nation states. It attracted investment (including foreign direct investment), accelerating economic growth. As a result, the industry is driving more entrepreneurs to consider fantasy sports as a scalable business proposition.

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Added to this is the evolving nature of the sports fan in India. Today, the fan has become much more engaged and from a consumer of sports content to an active participant via fantasy sports platforms. The Indian sports fan now has her skin in the game and is therefore engaged and part of the sport far beyond watching matches. The vigor of sports fans to participate in fantasy sports online with a winning spirit has also driven them to sharpen their knowledge of different sports, to be able to participate on a larger scale. This led to deeper active engagement which studies show has led to 60% of fantasy sports users watching more sports than before. This is also why leagues and events find fantasy sports platforms as the right partners to increase their engagement with fans.

With this evolving ecosystem and fanbase, this industry continues to grow vigorously. According to a report by PwC, it is estimated that it will bring in revenue of ₹13,500 crore to the state treasury in three successive financial years. Also, the industry has attracted over ₹10,000 crore in FDI so far and is expected to attract ₹15,000 crore in the next three years, adding significant value to the economy.

Why Fantasy Gambling Isn't Gambling, by Amrit MathurBeyond its contributions to the economy, the fantasy sports sector has also created a myriad of job opportunities for some skilled sectors in India, ranging from software engineers and data scientists to developers and IT professionals. cybersecurity. It also hosts creative talent departments such as graphic and motion designers and creative content writers. The industry is expected to create up to 10,000 to 15,000 direct employment opportunities for these skilled workers. It is clearly an effective tool for the cognitive development and training of enthusiastic young professionals.

Despite several hurdles the fantasy sports industry has overcome, it continues to face legal scrutiny in many states, where it is misinterpreted and associated with activities such as gambling, betting and labeled as a warning sign of addiction. The Madras High Court rejected this request in the absence of data or research to support the allegations. Many don’t understand that since fantasy sports are based on real-time games, they cannot be played in the absence of live sporting events. Given the industry’s tremendous growth so far as well as what it is about to achieve, it is imperative to identify fantasy sports as a separate and independent category. Securing consistent political support would not only bolster this sunny segment of India’s startup sector, but also broaden the sports ecosystem as a whole. The government’s appointment of a new task force for the AVGC sector (animation, visual effects, games and comics) in the latest budget paves the way for new development and career opportunities for young people.

To conclude, the need of the hour is a combination of accurate regulatory policies, rational GST assessment, to help the fantasy sports industry thrive and prosper to serve the growing socio-economic ecosystem of suppliers. services, fans and sport in general.

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(This story appears in the June 17, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our archive, click here.)

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