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NITI Aayog tables white paper for fantasy sports regulation

NITI Aayog tables white paper for fantasy sports regulation
Photo Credit: VCCircle
7 Dec, 2020

National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog on Friday released an online fantasy sports-themed draft discussion paper for stakeholder review as it sought to curb games of questionable legality operating in the guise of fantasy sports.

The central government think tank said it aims to ensure uniform national-level consumer protection in India’s emerging online fantasy gaming business ecosystem.

Fantasy sports contests do not have independent legal recognition in the country, having to shelter under an undefined exception to the state gambling and public order laws, the government body said in its draft.

NITI Aayog said that independent and cost-effective grievance redressal mechanisms within the fantasy sports industry must be considered to meet objectives of providing accessible and

uniform dispute resolution to consumers, and not repeatedly exposing compliant OFSP operators to repeated legality challenges that come from consumer disputes reaching the courts.

OFSP operators are online fantasy sports platform operators.

The body also suggested a self-regulatory organisation for the fantasy sports industry to be created and recognised by the government. The body, it said, should have membership of OFSP operators who, in aggregate, have as their registered users at least 66% of the registered fantasy sports users in India.

“It is worthwhile to add that with the recognition of fantasy sports as a game of skill, it is equally

imperative to secure the industry and the users of OFPSs from unscrupulous operators who lure users with games of questionable legality in the guise of fantasy sports, and thereby tarnish the image and potential of the industry as well as the consumer’s trust and expectation that the outcome of a fantasy sports contest will be determined by the superior exhibition of skill relative to participating users,” the discussion paper said.

A nemesis to the nature of fantasy sports’ alleged view as a game of skill has been a 'game of chance' or 'pay to play model.’

Read: Online fantasy sports: The sunshine sector that needs to be understood by all

"NITI Aayog's suggestions in the draft report are a testament to the fact that fantasy sports are not gambling... 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. How can brand ambassadors be questioned for endorsing a game that has the validation of courts, governments, and world-class academic institutes as a game of skill?" Bhavin Pandya, co-founder, and CEO of online gaming company Games24x7 said.

Games24x7 is the maker of OFSP called My11Circle.

The OFSP space in India comprises of heavily funded players such as MPL and Dream11, as well as MyTeam11, Nazara’s HalaPlay, 11Wickets, Faintain, Star Pick, and in the recent Paytm’s Paytm First Games that roped in international cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.