Rising Fantasy Sports Industry Exempt From India Gambling Laws

On April 18th of 2017, Justice Amit Rawal ruled in the Punjab and Haryana High Courts that playing fantasy sports online does not fall under the scope of Indian gambling laws. Under a 29-page order, the judge stated that fantasy sports games are not games of chance but rather require a substantial degree of skill (monitoring events, player performance, previous track records, etc.) and are exempt from anti-gambling laws. This ruling enforced the legality of fantasy sports and on October 24th the newly founded Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) was inaugurated in Mumbai and joined by 13 fantasy sports operators attending the ‘Impact of GTS and Taxation for Fantasy Sports’ workshop.

As a representative national body, the FIFS issued an 8-page charter for fantasy sports operators in India which entails how they must function and govern their sites. The charter includes information on:

• The required age of users
• Structure set by Indian courts
• Duration of contests
• Placement of user funds
• Steps for the FIFS approval process
• Strict pay-to-play format for and licensing by territory
• Stance on foreign players and foreign currency
• Required listing of contact information for user support and inquiries

The FIFS is registered as a not-for-profit trade body that wishes to regulate fantasy sports operators, address issues in the industry, promote fantasy sports as a game of skill, and share the best practices in services and contests. This self-regulatory agency is committed to operating responsibly and with complete transparency to protect the interests of players and operators. Currently, there are about 7 million fantasy sports players in India and we expect substantial growth in years to come as the sport’s popularity rises and access to the internet spreads across the entire country.

Sports enthusiasts can enjoy fantasy sports so long as they do not gamble or participate in online lotteries. For those asking how money is made, Fantasy sport operators can legally generate revenue through advertisements, contest sponsorships, brand partnerships, and entry fees from players. However, any games that involve cash for stakes require compliance with additional laws.

The industry is budding and is expected to undergo exponential growth, leaving plenty of opportunity for new operators to surface. While fantasy sports were just legalized as a game of skill, the concept of sports betting is not new to India. In fact, for many residents in India legal sports betting is common for sports like horse racing, cricket, and more. Indian residents can also enjoy legal online casinos that are offshore and safe to play.