The LexGaze Weekly - WE THE PEOPLE

An innate social affair: History of Fantasy Sports and Possible Avenues

Ms Prenkesha Menia

Issue 22 | November 22, 2020

Fantasy sport which is typically played online started in the United States in 1952 and India when ESPN Star Sports decided to follow suit in 2001. It is something concerned with predicting the outcome through online modes, where OFS users assemble a virtual team of real and professional players associated with different sports teams and clubs. These virtual teams compete with each other based on the statistical performance of the respective players in their concerned sport such as cricket, football and rugby. OFS provides a competition space, a chance to own and manage your own team, to indulge in the thrill of victory which demands little investment but can generate huge rewards. The best aspect of OFS is forming a deeper connection between sports enthusiasts and real-time sports. Fantasy sports is alleged to be a game which requires an element of skill, apart from involving a considerable and substantial degree of expertise vis-à-vis player profiles and statistics especially. Skill in the context of fantasy sports has to be construed widely to include not just mathematical adroitness, but prior understanding of team tactic, player skills and  managerial decisions amongst others. A byproduct of these elements is that it provides a platform to users to convert their knowledge about the innumerable sports into directly managing an AI powered fantasy team for the sake of points and other rewards.

The High Court of Haryana in Varun Gumber v. Union territory of Chandigarh opined that fantasy sports, being offered by the operator (Dream 11) were games of skill and did not constitute gambling. The Court also specified that it falls within the regime of legitimate business activity as it is protected and safeguarded by the parent law of India and also by Section 12 of the Public Gambling Act 1867. But one of the major concerns of the Court was the protection of the interest of the OFS users. As one of the surveys conducted by the Indian Fantasy Sports revealed that the rise of fantasy sports in India is creating a strong impact on the sports itself with large number of users spending more time on various sports, OFS users tend to follow sports more than before, investing more  of their time in research to develop better strategies. Rise in fantasy sports is paving the way for consumption of online sports content. Thus, it is very important to protect the users from hackers and cybercrimes. Moreover, it is for OFS users to ensure that they remain cautious while dealing with attachments and other applications associated with the games, must monitor app permissions, using strong passwords is one of the safety measures, must use comprehensive security software to ensure their own protection.

However, with the pandemic changing the course of things in our lives, it might be time for governments across various states in India, to consider the aspect of Gambling Tourism, something prevalent in Las Vegas. Gambling is largely banned in India and even if it is present in subtle forms, it has been regulated by the governments of the concerned state and the Union Territory Therefore, if the concerned governments are to give this venture a chance, it might bring some respite to the economy showing recessionary trends lately. Speaking of Gambling Tourism, it may be understood as an act of travelling to a different nation or province, in instances where different provinces/regions in a given country have different laws with respect to gambling, for the purpose of gambling either directly or through intranet facilities [Tourism & Gambling, Neil Leiper]. Considered as a significant contributor to the economy, if regulated, the casino industry in particular has attracted more tourists between 2005 to 2018 [ETN] as compared to tourists visiting for purposes like work-stay, vacation and  studies.

Sikkim, a North-Eastern state of India is one of the places to allow regulated operation of casinos apart from centrally administered Daman & Diu. Considering the impact, it has had on the hospitality sector in particular, as compared to tourism for other purposes is immense, and provides an incentive to other states having suitable avenues of tourism to implement something similar. Moreover, with the pandemic affecting our way of life and leaving most of what we do to the recourse of the internet, the states might want to take the laws prevailing in Sikkim allowing for intranet gambling within the geographical boundaries of the states. However, the ability to legislate on the said issue being shared by the union and the states, there is bound to be some confusion and even disagreement between the concerned parties which might jeopardise  the entire prospect even before the same is initiated. Thus, considering the overall benefits and negative aspects of the said industry, a dedicated commission is a desired way to move forward with the same, which would leave ample ground for proposals  of the governments from every level concerned and pave the way for a suitable and agreeable outcome with respect to the industry.