Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) on Monday said Niti Aayog’s draft guiding principles will offer the required impetus to “responsible growth” of online fantasy sports industry in India. It will also provide equal opportunities for all operators while protecting consumer interests and curbing any possible malpractices, the federation noted. In a draft report titled ‘Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India’, Niti Aayog noted that there is a public interest in the fantasy sports industry, receiving government recognition as an industry and having its own identity. It has pitched for setting up a single self-regulatory organisation for the online fantasy sports industry to be governed by the independent oversight board and also suggested restricting online fantasy games to users of 18 years and above.
“FIFS welcomes NITI Aayog’s draft guiding principles around online fantasy sports as it will provide the required impetus to the responsible growth of the online fantasy sports industry in India… These guidelines provide equal opportunities for all operators, protect consumer’s interests and curb any possible malpractices in this sector,” FIFS Chairman Bimal Julka said in a statement. FIFS, a self-regulatory industry body for fantasy sports, has created standards of best practice and consumer grievance redressal mechanism for member operators and fantasy sports users, he added. As per Niti Aayog’s draft guidelines, the extant legal ambiguity and differential treatment faced by fantasy sports games across the Indian states must be addressed through the creation of a uniform national-level safe-harbour for fantasy sports games. This, it said, will enable the implementation of a single national policy on fantasy sports and bring clarity to regulators, operators and consumers alike.
A recent report by KPMG had noted that the number of users participating in online fantasy sports in India has grown at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 212 per cent, from 2 million users in June 2016 to 90 million users in December 2019. It estimated that the fantasy sports industry has the potential to attract foreign direct investment of more than Rs 10,00 crore over the next few years as well as generate 1.5 billion online transactions by 2023. Another report by PricewaterhouseCoopers India’s stated that the fantasy sports industry has the potential to generate an additional over 5,000 direct and more than 7,000 indirect jobs in the next 2-3 years. Bhavin Pandya, co-founder and CEO of Games24x7 (makers of My11Circle) said several high courts, including the Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana High Courts, have examined the game’s legality and upheld it as a game of mere skill. “Massachusetts Institute of Technology has also concluded that there is real skill involved in fantasy sports, based on thorough research. But, the industry continues to fight the egregious perception that fantasy sports are the same as gambling. Recently, some cricketers have been unfairly questioned for endorsing fantasy sports platforms,” he pointed out. Countries worldwide have recognised the massive role of fantasy sports in creating a healthy sports ecosystem, he added.