How fantasy gaming is booming in India

Skill-based fantasy games made their way to the Indian market more than a decade ago.

The online gaming sector has undergone a drastic transformation in the last decade, with the global market witnessing robust growth in recent years. India, too, has been a significant part of this growth story. After all, India’s online industry is projected to turn into a billion dollar industry by 2023, as per a report conducted by KPMG and the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG). The report, titled ‘The Evolving Landscape of Sports Gaming in India’, primarily focused on the country’s strong affinity towards fantasy gaming. As stated by the report, the fantasy sports platforms will boast of a user base of over 100 million by 2021. While skill-based fantasy games made their way to the Indian market more than a decade ago, it was not until a few years later when the trend went mainstream. Especially, following the launch of popular sports events like the IPL (Indian Premier League) and the ISL (Indian Super League), the fantasy sports market in India began to experience an upward growth.

The ever-growing community of fantasy gamers in India

At present, fantasy sport is ruling the online gaming space, with millions of sports aficionados across the country trying their hands at it. From students to IT professionals, anyone with a smartphone and access to the internet can become a fantasy sport player and earn exciting rewards in return. Typically, participants are asked to pay a nominal entry fee and build their own virtual team with real players (could be from one side or both sides) who are scheduled to play in a standalone match or a league. Then they earn rewards based on the real-life performance of those chosen players. The winner receives the money through account transfer or digital wallets. Besides cricket which accounts for the major share of India’s fantasy sports market, non-cricket fantasy sports such as kabaddi and football are also garnering attention.

Fantasy sport games; skill-based or not?

There has been an ongoing debate about whether or not fantasy sport games are skill-based. However, the general consensus is that these games require a certain level of expertise and knowledge on the part of the users if they are looking to earn rewards. The participants need to stay updated on the availability, current form, the fitness of players and other external factors (ground conditions where the match will be played, weather etc.). Therefore, winning a fantasy match is not as simple as it appears; a lot of research goes into creating a winning team. And, skill matters more than luck in fantasy sport games. The fantasy sport ecosystem in India is also regulated by the private body IFSG which decides if a game is skill-based or chance-based.

Skill-based fantasy sport games do not constitute gambling

Unlike a few western countries, the laws around gambling in India are pretty strict. However, there is no uniform law that is upheld across all the states. As per the constitutions of India, the state governments have the liberty to create and modify laws that involve gambling or betting. In most Indian states (except Telangana, Assam and Odisha), users are allowed to put money in fantasy sport games as they fall in the category of ‘games of mere skill’.

In 2017, a prominent fantasy sports company won a case, wherein the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that fantasy sport platforms are legal. Another major turn for India’s fantasy gaming market was when the Supreme Court gave a clean cheat to Rummy in 2015 under the Public Gaming Act (PGA). While there still remains a legal ambiguity regarding the real money games, fantasy sport games are safe to play without any legal complications.

What lies ahead for India’s booming fantasy sports market?

The fantasy sports segment, albeit at a growing stage, is making a huge impact on the domestic online gaming industry. With around 70-80 fantasy gaming companies operating actively, more and more Indians are turning to these platforms for entertainment purposes. Also, the fact that fantasy sport enables users to be an active participant in a game that they are watching has played a crucial factor contributing to the industry’s growth. As major companies and start-ups in this space strive to make the entire gaming experience more immersive, the future of India’s fantasy sports market looks truly promising.

--Prithvi Singh – Founder and CTO at Gameskraft

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