NITI Aayog Recommends Unified Regulations of Online Fantasy Sports in India

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) has proposed the establishment of a single self-regulatory authority, tasked specifically with the responsibility of overseeing virtual fantasy sports (OFS) in the country. The proposition aims to safeguard the interests of users where transparency is concerned and ensure all fantasy sports operators comply with the same requirements for fair play and transparency.

The proposed independent regulatory board is to oversee local fantasy sports platforms like My11Circle, Dream11, and Mobile Premier League, all of which enjoy significant popularity in the country. The organization would keep a close watch over the sector, ensuring full compliance with the regulatory rules.

It will also assist in the resolution of users’ complaints in case of violations. Another mandate of the organization would be to communicate with the authorities of Indian states that view online fantasy sports in an unfavorable light. Also suggested in the recommendations was to restrict the access to pay-to-play fantasy sports only to users who are at least 18 years old.

The proposal was made through a discussion paper with the bulky title of “Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India”. It was drawn up by the Frontier Technology Vertical at the policy institute NITI Aayog after comprehensive consultations that involved legal practitioners, people with administrative experience, and industry experts.

NITI Aayog Calls for Legal Differentiation between Fantasy Sports and Gambling

According to NITI Aayog, the Indian government must recognize fantasy sports as a separate industry due to the high level of public interest in them. Fantasy sports, the discussion paper argues, have a unique identity that calls for their legal differentiation from casino gambling and other forms of betting. They should be treated as a non-addictive form of online gaming because they depend on actuality and seasonality as well as on the availability of real-time contests.

The draft paper also stated that while the presence of virtual fantasy sports providers (OFSPs) extends across the nation, the proceeds from their oversight might differ significantly from one Indian state to another, depending on their individual regulatory schemes. This may lead to discrepancies in the providers’ levels of fairness and integrity in different states.

In turn, this might cause inconsistency in the experience of the users, the draft report said, as well as jurisdiction shopping on behalf of the operators themselves. Fantasy sports buffs from some Indian states may end up being deprived of their right to actively participate in fantasy sports contests.

A light-touch approach toward a unified regulatory regime for online fantasy sports may also facilitate the further growth of this market, the discussion paper states. Such games already enjoy massive popularity in the country.

This becomes apparent from the figures included in a recent market report, which shows the number of locals to participate in such contests has grown from just 2 million in mid-2016 to 90 million at the end of 2019.

The sector can potentially generate as many as 1.5 billion virtual transactions by the year 2023. Comments on the discussion paper can be sent to [email protected] by December 19, 2020.

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