Fantasy Sports are often misunderstood with gambling in India but it's not
the case, fantasy Sports are a completely different concept than Betting or
Gambling. Moreover, the ambit of Gambling is very wide. People often think
Betting & Gambling are the same, but it is not the case though. The term
'Fantasy Sport' refers to the type of Online Sport where the player creates or
assembles an imaginary team composed of representations of real players of a
professional sport such as Kabaddi, Hockey, Soccer, Cricket, etc.
Gambling is making a bet on the outcome of an event or game which can have an
uncertain result. In gambling people usually put a specific amount of money on
the stake to gain more. Thus, we can say that gambling is an activity that
depends upon the luck and choice of the outlet of an individual who placed a bet
on an event; whereas Betting is a form of Gambling which is identified as an
organized commercial activity between 2 parties where one party predicts the
outcome of the event and places the bet and the other party who loses the bet
agrees to pay the money to the player.
Evolution of Fantasy Sports
In the United States of America, Fantasy Sports began in the year 1952, however
it gained wide popularity in recent years. Fantasy Sports came to India in the
year 2001 via ESPN Star Sports, however, after 2 years their game Super Selector
was phased out and stopped eventually.
Just a decade ago fantasy sports again started to emerge at a rapid pace with
the advancement of the Internet and Technologies. In the year 2016, it was
estimated that there are around 2 million users of Fantasy Sports in India.
However, this number is increasing day by day in the year 2019, 90 million
people were playing Fantasy Sports in India and the number of mobile gamers
is expected to reach 368 million by the year 2022 in India.
The most frequently played fantasy sport in India is Cricket, especially the T20
format such as T20 – International Leagues or the Indian Premier League; however
other forms of sports such as Kabaddi, Football, NBA are also played during the
season of the leagues.
In the year 2017, the courts and the High Court's gave the judgments to the
Regarding the illegality of fantasy sports, the courts held that Fantasy Sports
are Game of Skills not a Game of Chance, the reason was that in Fantasy sports
participants had to track the player activity consistently, sporting events,
previous track records of the players. This clearly states that Fantasy Sports
are more than a game of luck, so for playing this one need requisite skills of
The decision given by the High Court opened a new door for Fantasy Sports
providers in the Indian Market which led to the emergence of ventures such as
Dream 11, Hala Play, etc. The Indian Gaming industry is still growing at a rapid
pace which will be matching the market of the US in just a few years from now.
In the year 2020, the valuation of the Indian Gaming Industry was $930 million
and in the year 2024, it is expected to be $3750 million. From the data, we
can analyze that India is seen as the biggest Fantasy Sports market in the
The intersection of Intellectual Property Rights with the Fantasy Sports
Another issue rather than the legality of the Fantasy Sport that surrounds it is
the usage of logos, names of the players on the Fantasy Sports Platform. These
platforms use the names of the players, the logos of their respective teams so
that the participants can choose the players from specific teams. We are very
aware of the fact that players have their image rights with them as their
Intellectual Property rights.
In fantasy sports, there are commercial arrangements for using the Intellectual
Property of these players because Fantasy sports are built around the leagues &
tournaments rather than the specific players. The use of the images, names of
the players in fantasy sports are only to identify them and the use of their
images, names doesn't amount to any kind of endorsements in any form.
How there is a surge in fantasy sports, it becomes essential for the fantasy
sports entrepreneurs or companies they are legally bound by a contract with the
players, tournaments, leagues whose IP rights they are using for their business,
because India has become the biggest market of Fantasy Sports by the year 2020.
The usage of identity rights of the sports players leads to complexities in the
evolving arena of Intellectual Property Laws. Therefore, it is essential to
protect the Intellectual Property Rights of the owners and the judiciary should
look into this aspect as well.
Present Status of Fantasy Sports in India
The Legality of the Fantasy Sports in India
For criminalizing public gambling India has its colonial legislation The Public
Gambling Act, 1867 which prohibits running public gambling houses in India.
However, we have state-specific laws under the Indian Constitution for Gambling
& Betting. According to the 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, the
state government has the authority to formulate the laws on betting & gambling.
Fantasy Sports which is considered as the 'Game of Skill' fall in the separate
category of Gambling Legislation of the States which exclude game of skill from
the scope of gambling. However, we have some exceptions such as Odisha,
Telangana & Assam which still considers in the scope of gambling.
The legality of fantasy sports is decided based on classification whether the
game is a 'game of chance' or 'game of skill'. Game of Chance is considered
under gambling and is restricted by state legislations whereas a game of skill
is not considered as gambling as it requires requisite analysing skills and some
sort of arithmetical skills as well. Therefore, games of skills are outside the
scope of existing gambling statutes in India and they are considered legal.
The most famous case for the legality of the fantasy sports in India is Varun
Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh
 which came before the High Court
of Punjab & Haryana in the year 2017 and later on another case came before the
High Court of Bombay which was Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India
was also decided in the year 2017.
These 2 cases are popularly known as Dream 11 Judgements which upheld the
legality of fantasy sports in India and are set as precedents for future cases
related to the legality of fantasy sports.
It was further specified that Dream 11 is a legitimate business activity and is
protected under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Indian Constitution which gives the
right to practise any profession and carry on any trade or business subject to
reasonable restrictions. In a successive appeal against this decision the
Supreme Court of India dismissed the appeal and held that the expression game of
mere skill was interpreted by the honourable Court to mean mainly and
preponderantly a game of skill.
Top Fantasy Sports Providers in India
In India we have ample amount of options for fantasy sports providers, most
prominent one's are Dream 11, Halaplay, Mobile Premier League (MPL) and are
endorsed by popular athletes such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni for Dream 11, Hardik
Pandya & Krunal Pandya for Halaplay & Virat Kohli for Mobile Premier League.
Moreover, other Fantasy Sports platforms are BalleBaazi, Rummy Circle, My Team
11, Zapak, Livepools, Twelfth Man, Ftoss, Paytm First Game, etc.
These are some of the widely used apps in India for fantasy sports and Former
Cricketer Yuvraj Singh is the brand ambassador of BalleBaazi, Sachin Tendulkar
is the ambassador of Paytm First Game, for My Team 11, Virendra Sehwag is the
brand ambassador & Famous Indian Footballer Sunil Chettri is the Brand
ambassador of the Twelfth Man which is fantasy sports platform for Football.
The reason why Fantasy Sports is growing at a rapid pace in India is because
these celebrities sportsperson have huge number of fan following and have high
influencing power and if they endorse a particular app their followers are
surely going to try that and also there is advancement in Internet with every
passing year and Internet and Smartphones both are becoming cheaper and
affordable to public at a large so these are the major reasons behind the
booming of E-Sports Industry in India.
Celebrity Endorsing Fantasy Sports
With the increase in popularity of the Fantasy Sport platform, there is also an
increase in number of partnership opportunities which come across them for the
endorsement. The fantasy sports do partnership with athletes on contractual
basis to endorse their platforms so that it becomes more popular among the
public. The success of Fantasy Sport platform also depends upon the fan
following and influencing capacity of the athlete.
The more influencing the athlete, the better the chances of success of the
fantasy sport platform. The best examples for the above-mentioned line is the
success of Dream 11 & Mobile Premier League. Former Indian Cricket Team Captain M.S
Dhoni is the brand ambassador of Dream 11 platform, he is a great personality as
the whole world knows about him, moreover he has 30.9 million followers on his
Instagram account and 8.2 million followers on his twitter account, moreover the
present captain of Indian Cricket Team Virat Kohli has 104 million followers on
Instagram & 41.1 Million followers on Twitter and currently he is the brand
ambassador of Mobile Premier League; So, we can clearly acknowledge from their
fan bases that how much influence they can have on the audience if they are
endorsing any product.
Here is the list of other fantasy sports platforms in India which are
endorsed by various athletes:
Legislations & Important Judgements related to Fantasy Sports in India
Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh (2017)
- Twelfth Man – A fantasy football app whose brand ambassador is Indian
Professional Footballer Sunil Chhetri was signed in May 2020
- My 11 Circle – A fantasy cricket app whose brand ambassadors are former
International Indian Cricketers Saurav Ganguly & VVS Lakshman and present
Afghanistani International Cricketer Rashid Khan & Former Australian
Cricketer Shane Watson.
- Paytm First Games – An all in one fantasy games app launched by Paytm
whose brand ambassador is Former Indian International Cricketer Sachin
- Hala Play - An all in one fantasy games app whose brand ambassadors are
Indian International Cricketers Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya.
- BalleBaazi - A fantasy cricket app whose brand ambassador is Former
Indian Cricketer and Star Player of 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj Singh.
This case is a historic case for legality of fantasy sports in India, herein
this case the plaintiff was a registered player at Dream 11 platform which was
operated by the respondent company (Dream 11 fantasy Pvt. Ltd.). The plaintiff
lost the tournament offered by Dream 11 platform and moved to High Court of
Punjab and Haryana alleging that the fantasy sports was not based on skill but
it was based on chance and the business of Dream 11 comes under the definition
of gambling under the legislations applicable to the State of Punjab. The Punjab
& Haryana High Court relied on the judgement of supreme court that fantasy
sports required same level of skill, judgement & discretion as in the case of
horse racing. Moreover, it was argued that:
- The Respondent party argued in front of court that to achieve success in
Dream 11 the users are required to deploy requisite skills, discretion &
judgement while making their team on Dream 11.
- They further argued that users were required to study the rules and
regulations for playing the game; for example – A user is required to
analyse the statistics of the player such as batting average, total runs,
economy rate, strike rate, etc. needs to keep in mind before forming the
- Furthermore, it was computed that success in the game depends on the
rational thinking, judgement, statistical analysis, knowledge of the user
regarding the game being played.
So, from the above arguments it's clear that playing tournaments on Dream 11 is
a game of skill not the game of chance.
Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India (2019)
The main issue raised in this case was that:
Whether the Respondent was conducting illegal operations of
gambling/betting/wagering in the guise of 'online fantasy sports gaming' and
consequently, was it levying inadequate GST on such services.
Therefore it was held by the High court of Bombay that the contests happening on
Dream 11 platform was not dependent on the real-life result of the match's
result i.e. upon a winning or losing of the match, so contesting on Dream 11
platform does not constitutes to gambling; moreover court relied on the
judgement of the case of Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh
said that Dream 11 fall under the game of skill not under the game of chance and
also relied on the excerpts of the Supreme Court Judgement K.R Lakshmanan v.
S/O Tamil Nadu
which held that those competitions which requires requisite
amount of skills in order to get success would not amount to gambling & as a
result of that the claim would fall under the Entry 6 of Schedule 3 under
Section 7(2) of the Central Goods & Services Tax Act, 2017 (CGST Act) and
therefore GST of 18% will be applicable for the Dream 11, thus it resolves the
question regarding the taxation issue.
State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana & Ors. (1967)
The issue raised in this case was that Whether playing Rummy comes under the
ambit of game of skill
or game of chance
? & It was held by the
Supreme Court that while playing rummy one needs to memorize the fall of cards
and one also need a practise of discarding and holding of the cards, so rummy
cannot be categorised under the game of chance because for playing this game one
needs requisite skills, therefore rummy falls under the category of game of
State of Bombay v. R.M.D Chamarbaugwala (1957)
The Issue raised in this case was that Does Gambling qualify as trade, commerce
or intercourse? & It was held in this case was that Gambling or doing the
business of gambling was extra commercium and therefore it is not included
in the ambit of 'trade, commerce or intercourse'.
The Public Gambling Act, 1867 is the legislation of central government which is
was formed in colonial period in India by the Britishers to regulate and
penalise gambling. This legislation prohibits all games of chances except
lotteries and games of skills as well. Only the central government has the power
to regulate the lotteries organised by the Government of India or by any of the
Information Technology Rules 2021 – Section 4 (1) (b) (ii)
shall inform the user of computer resource not to host, display, upload, modify,
publish, transmit, store, update or share any information that is defamatory,
obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another's privacy, including
bodily privacy, insulting or harassing on the basis of gender, libellous,
racially or ethnically objectionable, relating or encouraging money laundering
or gambling, or otherwise inconsistent with or contrary to the laws of India.
The Constitution of India – 7th Schedule [Entries 34 & 62 of the State List]
The Indian Contract Act, 1872 – 'Agreements by way of wager, void'
Agreements by way of wager are void; and no suit shall be brought for recovering
anything alleged to be won on any wager, or entrusted to any person to abide the
result of any game or other uncertain event on which any wager is made.
There has always been a tussle between the game of skill and the game of chance.
Few people still believe that fantasy sports are a game of chance whereas half
of the population has a belief directly or indirectly fantasy sports are a game
of skill that requires interpretation, calculation, and analytical skill of an
individual to play the sport.
So, it's high time for the judiciary and government to have codified legislation
for the regulation of fantasy sports and online gambling in India and for the
judiciary to set precedents in our country related to fantasy sports and
gambling by giving landmark judgments.
E-Sports is undoubtedly a rewarding sector in India and with the evolution of
technology and easy availability of mobile data it is booming in India at a
rapid pace, so there is a need to regulate the E-Sport industry by codified
legislation which specifically serves this purpose & Fantasy sport is one of the
e-sports which is played in India at a massive scale.
- Ikigai Law, Unpacking A Billion Dollar Industry: Digital Games & Sports
In India 02 (Ikigai Law & Iamai Report 2021).
- Ikigai Law, Unpacking A Billion Dollar Industry: Digital Games & Sports
In India 04 (Ikigai Law & Iamai Report 2021)
- Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh and Ors. (18.04.2017 -
- Supra Note 2.
- Entries 34 & 62 of List II.
- Bombay HC, 30 Apr. 2019.
- Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan v. State Of Tamil Nadu And Anr, MANU/SC/0309/1996
- K.R Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu, MANU/SC/0309/1996.
- Surbhi Kejriwal (Partner) and Ayush Nanda (Senior Associate), Bombay HC:
Online fantasy sports gaming is legit!, Khaitan & Co., (last visited Mar.
20, 2021, 10.35 PM), https://www.khaitanco.com/thought-leadership/bombay-hc-Online-fantasy-sports-gaming.
- Manvee & Joysree, Sports Betting: An analysis with reference to Judicial
Aspects, LL.B Mania, (last visited Mar 20, 2021, 11.35 PM), https://llbmania.com/2020/05/21/sports-betting-an-analysis-with-reference-to-judicial-aspects/.
- The Indian Contract Act,1872, § 30, No. 9, Acts of Parliament, 1872,