Online gaming has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, with fantasy sports being a significant part of the trend. However, some state governments in India have linked these games to gambling and have gone as far as banning them outright. The states that have taken such extreme measures include Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Telangana, and Kerala.
The five Indian states have banned certain online games under their respective gambling acts. Odisha has prohibited online games under the Odisha Prevention of Gambling Act 1955, while Telangana has banned fantasy sports-based games under the 1974 Telangana Gambling Act. Additionally, Andhra Pradesh has also banned fantasy sports, such as Dream11, through its Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act of 1974. Kerala has disallowed all games of chance and issued a notice to Indian celebrities, like Virat Kohli, who promote fantasy sports and similar platforms. Lastly, the State of Assam has prohibited MPL and Dream11.
States are not alone in the crusade against Fantasy games, even the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is taking action and has recently requested proposals to create new Self-Regulatory Organisations (SROs) for online gaming. They have received three proposals.
Why is Fantasy Sports so controversial?
Fantasy sports have been a topic of controversy in India for several reasons. The main point of contention is whether they should be considered a game of skill or a form of gambling based on chance. Supporters argue that strategic decision-making, knowledge of the game, and statistical analysis make fantasy sports skill-based. However, critics argue that the element of chance involved in player performance and outcomes makes it akin to gambling.
Fantasy sports platforms have also faced criticism for being seen as facilitators of online gambling. Real-money transactions and the potential for participants to win or lose money based on player performance have raised concerns about the social and psychological implications of gambling-like activities and their potential impact on vulnerable individuals.
The rapid growth of the fantasy sports industry has highlighted the need for clear regulations and oversight to address issues like consumer protection, fair play, data security, and transparency. Critics argue that the lack of stringent regulations and monitoring mechanisms in place can lead to unfair practices, fraudulent activities, and misrepresentation by operators, potentially jeopardizing the interests of participants.
Furthermore, the aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns of fantasy sports platforms, featuring popular sports personalities and celebrities, have raised concerns about their impact on vulnerable populations, excessive spending, and the normalization of gambling-like behaviour.