The skill gaming landscape in India has been the subject of uncertainty for many years. There is no doubt as to the popularity of fantasy sports, poker, and rummy in the country. However, the legal situation currently makes it difficult for many people to play their favorite games without playing online at offshore casino sites (1).
While states like Sikkim and Goa permit casino and skill games, other parts of India have restrictions in place. This makes it difficult for the gaming industry, the national government, and individual state governments to benefit from the potential economic value of skill gaming. The NITI Aayog government think tank has recently produced a report suggesting the way forward for fantasy sports. This has caused the wider skill gaming industry to push to be considered in the same way.
NITI Aayog’s Fantasy Sports findings
In their discussion paper, NITI Aayog recommended that an inter-state regulatory body should be set up to formulate boundaries and regulations for the fantasy sports sector. They further went on to push for countrywide regulation of the industry (2).
However, it was recognised in the discussion paper that states would need to take their own responsibility for participating pending any final Supreme Court decision on the matter.
Why other skill gaming sectors want the same approach as fantasy sports
The wider skill gaming sector welcomes the move to regulate fantasy sports but does not understand why it cannot also be included. For example, Sameer Barde, CEO of the Online Rummy Federation has spoken of there being an “equal if not greater need” to bring regulation to the entire skill gaming industry.
Bhavin Pandya, co-founder and CEO of Games24x7, has also spoken out about the paper from NITI Aayog. Pandya said that NITI Aayog should be forward thinking and recommend a framework for all games of skill and not solely fantasy sports. The argument is that you cannot separate one specific part of what is a large and diverse industry.
This argument comes against a backdrop of confusion and frustration in the industry overall. Although games of skill are not illegal in India there is much dispute about what constitutes skill. This means that local courts often rule against games because they do not define them as skill-based (3).
This situation makes it very difficult for businesses within the skill gaming industry to establish themselves in India. So, leaders are looking to think tanks like NITI Aayog to push for wider and more comprehensive regulation. This type of regulation would make it easier for businesses to provide their services and bring in revenue which would also benefit the country overall through taxation.
It remains to be seen whether the suggestions of NITI Aayog regarding fantasy sports will bring regulation for the sector. If this does happen, the approach may spread to other parts of the skill gaming sector. It’s likely that any progress will be a lot slower than the industry would like.