Indian Cabinet Exploring Proposal To Regulate Fantasy Sports

February 9, 2022
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The Indian Cabinet has said for the first time that multiple ministries are considering a discussion paper on fantasy sports regulation produced by the government’s top think tank.

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The Indian Cabinet has said for the first time that multiple ministries are considering a discussion paper on fantasy sports regulation produced by the government’s top think tank.

Anurag Thakur, minister of information and broadcasting and minister of youth affairs and sports, told lower house lawmakers in writing that a draft of the key discussion paper “has been shared with several ministries, including [the youth affairs and sports] ministry”.

Thakur confirmed on Tuesday (February 8) in two responses that the draft “Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India”, released by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) in December 2020, was in distribution, but he did not say if or how the government is implementing its recommendations.

Previously, the Prime Minister’s Office was reported to have summoned NITI Aayog’s research files linked to the report, some six months after its publication.

Thakur did not list the ministries considering the discussion paper and declined to answer a question on whether the government “intends to frame a specialised policy for regulation of online fantasy sports”.

Other questions relating to skill gaming and legal and policy frameworks were ignored, except to state that the national government considers fantasy sports to involve “betting and gambling” and it therefore falls under state government jurisdiction.

However, Thakur said the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued an advisory on December 4, 2020 that instructed private satellite TV channels to comply with advertising guidelines relating to online gaming and the need to include “certain disclaimers” warning against financial and other risk.

Thakur’s comments offer some comfort to the online skill gaming industry, which is seeking regulatory frameworks across India’s states and territories as private legal action and state laws targeting gaming companies accelerate, including against fantasy sports operators.

Industry experts are now looking to the central government to play more of a shepherding role for regional reform, especially among politically aligned regions, or even to deploy a “relevant nodal ministry to support industry self-regulation”, an industry source told VIXIO.

Roland Landers, CEO of online gaming lobby group All India Gaming Federation, expressed confidence that the latest development bodes well for the wider online gaming industry, which includes skill card games and esports.

“All online skill gaming that is transactional will be considered together for regulation and this will be led by states,” he told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Wednesday.

Still, online gaming has only found a reliable regulatory home in three small northeastern states, while legislatures and governments of key states such as Karnataka are so hostile to the industry that Supreme Court challenges to wide-ranging bans appear inevitable.

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