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Fantasy sports doesn’t equal gambling, Indian High Court finds

Fantasy sports a skill game in India

AN Indian high court has ruled that fantasy sports requires a high level of skill.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has determined that playing fantasy sports on the web is not considered to be gambling in the country.

The ruling could pave the way for a legalised sports betting industry in India.

Justice Amit Rawal reviewed the issue which was raised by Varun Gumber. The resident of Chandigarh state had wanted the court to prosecute a fantasy sports site for promoting gambling.

Most forms of gambling in India is illegal, though some states have legalised certain games. Sikkim is the only state to allow online gambling in the country. But skill-based games, such as poker and Gin Rummy, are legal.

It is the first time a court has had to deal with the legal status of fantasy sports, however.

Gumber claimed he deposited Rs. 50,000 at Dream11, created two fantasy teams and then lost the money on two fantasy sports matchup games, according to the Indian Times.

He wanted the court to investigate the website under the Public Gambling Act 1867, created well before fantasy sports even existed.

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But the court rejected Gumber’s case based on a Supreme Court judgement which determined that horse racing betting is a game of skill. Justice Rawal said the judgement applies directly to fantasy sports.

“After forming a virtual team as per his own selection, knowledge and judgment, which is thoughtful will, he joined various leagues and after registration which was declared before participating,” Justice Rawal said in his ruling.

The court referred to Gumber’s actions, including monitoring sporting events and statistical performance of the players, as well as weather conditions and other components, to conclude the game as one which requires skill.

Leading up to his decision, Justice Rawal reviewed Dream11’s terms and conditions. He noted that the company regularly pays service and income taxes. Justice Rawal also said he perceived Dream11 as a registered incorporated entity that operated responsibly.

The court concluded that since fantasy sports is not gambling, it is a business activity which is protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution for the free right to trade.

The decision contradicts the recent recommendations in Massachusetts, USA, that daily fantasy sports – a form of fantasy sports – amounts to gambling.

The Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports released a report prompting the State Legislature to class DFS games as online gambling products.

The Indian ruling not only gives the budding fantasy sports industry in the country a boost, but it could also open the floodgates for sports betting.

Following public consultation on the possibility of legalising sports betting, the country’s Sports Ministry has reportedly commenced discussions on the best way to do it.

Sports Secretary, Injeti Srinivas, has reportedly met with the UK Gambling Commission Director, Nick Tofiluk, to talk about the matter. The Indian government may utilise the UK regulatory framework to shape its own with regards to sports betting.

The ruling is good news for sports betting punters, and even better news for fantasy sports players.