No proposal to designate FIFS as nodal agency to regulate fantasy sports – Sports Ministry

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On December 14, the Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Mr. Anurag Thakur in Lok Sabha said that the government has no proposal to designate any agency to regulate fantasy sports in India. The Minister was responding to a starred question posed by fellow BJP legislator Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal. A few days back, the Union Ministry of Education had issued an advisory to parents and teachers on safe online gaming.

Dr. Jaiswal sought the government responses to the following questions:

  • The current nodal agency that looks into and regulates the fantasy sports sector in the country;
  • Whether the Government is considering a proposal to authorise organizations such as the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) as the nodal agency;
  • If so, the details thereof;
  • Whether it is true that some fantasy sports platforms require Know Your Customer (KYC) only when the player wishes to withdraw money from the gaming account;
  • if so, the details thereof; and
  • the steps taken by the Government to mandate verification of identity at the point of entry in fantasy sports?

Also read: Fantasy sports leader Dream11 to enter rummy space

For the first three questions, Mr. Thakur responded that the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has not authorized any agency to regulate fantasy sports. For the next three questions, the minister said betting and gambling come under List II of Seventh Schedule (entry 34) of the Constitution of India, for which States are competent to enact laws. This is not the first time the issue of fantasy sports is raised in the Lok Sabha.

BJP MP Jagdambika Pal asked similar questions in July 2021. Then the minister responded that fantasy sports and their associated online platforms are emerging as a sector. The ministry said that the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports has not carried out any study on the potential of fantasy sports and its ill effects. Mr. Thakur said in Lok Sabha that NITI Aayog has prepared a draft discussion paper on draft guidelines for online fantasy sports platforms in India. On a question of regulation, the Minister in July 2021 said sports is a State subject and it is in the domain of the States to make laws and regulations concerning these subjects.

Earlier this month, Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu called online games a “big menace” and referred to them as “Kill games” and not “Skill games.” The Vice President directed the Minister for Electronics, Information, and Technology to examine the possibility of regulating them. The remark followed a discussion in the House initiated by former Bihar Deputy CM and Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi.

Mr. Modi gave examples of increased time spent on gaming post-pandemic as proof of an increase in gaming addiction. on the addictiveness and the risk of financial losses associated with gaming platforms. 21 members of Rajya Sabha from 14 states across the political lines associated themselves with the issue. Again on 8 December, the issue of gaming addiction was brought up in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour. Mr. Modi gave examples of Dream11 and Mobile Premier League in his speech.

The discussion on the regulation of online gaming is not limited to Parliament. The southern states Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, have notified prohibitory laws, citing addiction and financial losses to enact prohibitory laws. The Madras High Court in August had struck down the Tamil Nadu law as unconstitutional. This case was appealed by the Tamil Nadu government before the Supreme Court. The Kerala High Court had struck down the notification banning online rummy. The Karnataka law is currently challenged before the Karnataka High Court which is currently in the final stages of hearing.

India is one of the top five mobile gaming markets in the world, with a 13% share of global game sessions, and is expected to add 40 million online gamers during 2020−22. The online gaming industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent to $2.8 billion by 2022, up from $1.1 billion in 2019, according to a Deloitte India report.