Online fantasy sports a game of skill not chance

MUMBAI: Online fantasy sports (OFS) is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country with more than 100 million users and close to 200 operators, despite no support from the government and a ban in a few states.

The sector, which has been growing at a compounded annual rate of 32%, is expected to touch $3.7 billion by the end of 2024, as per consultancy firm KPMG.

And while companies like Dream11, MyTeam11, Halaplay, 11 Wickets, My11 Circle and Paytm First Games are spending big money on building the whole ecosystem and spreading awareness about OFS, many still doubt the legality of the sector and compare it with gambling. This has hampered the growth and not let the sector reach its true potential, experts feel.

Often, the biggest debate that happens among governments and policymakers is that if anything is online and virtual in nature and involves a small fee or money, then does it qualify as a ‘game of chance’ or a ‘game of skill’, they said.

As per the latest white-paper by Indiatech.org, OFS has been accepted and well established as a ‘game of skill’, backed by multiple court rulings. It highlights that fantasy sports are dependent on real-life sports and have become one of the primary sources of entertainment for sports enthusiasts across age groups.

“OFS is positively contributing to the entire sports ecosystem by creating a large number of sports enthusiasts with a higher level of engagement with multiple sports,” Indiatech.org chief executive Rameesh Kailasam told ET. “With OFS, there is an opportunity to create another sunshine industry.”

The white-paper pointed out that a small number, around 20%, of active fantasy sports users actually engaged in pay-to-play format and the average ticket size was as low as Rs 35.

In an earlier interaction, Harsh Jain, the CEO of fantasy sports company Dream11, had told ET that 80% of its users had never played for money.

The white-paper also pointed out that even those who had played fantasy sports with money, 98% had either won or lost less than Rs 10,000 net in their lifetime.

“Ticket size is usually very small as it is more of a volume game. So, it is mostly harmless. But what is more important is that more users are engaging with other sports too and not just cricket,” Kailasam added.

Unlike other forms of online gaming, fantasy sports is 100% dependent on actual, real time sports. That is why, during the pandemic when live sports had come to a standstill, online gaming companies witnessed a spike in traffic but OFS registered a drop.

As per the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports, a self-regulatory body formed in 2017, income tax outlay due to direct employment by OFS platforms and operators in FY2019 amounted to Rs 43 crore, which almost doubled to Rs 81 crore in FY2020.

The sector has attracted more than Rs 1,500 crore of foreign direct investment in the last two years.

Online fantasy sports a game of skill not chance Online fantasy sports a game of skill not chance Reviewed by TechCO on 9/16/2020 Rating: 5

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