The laws in India, when talking about gambling, are tainted with inconsistencies and loopholes. This mostly comes down to the age of the nationwide law, the Public Gambling Act of 1867.
It should come as no surprise that the modern world has created a few legal loopholes in the outdated Act. Created long before the existence of most modern gambling activities, the Act makes no reference to online games, fantasy sports or any form of online gambling.
After a marked increase of online betting in the country, several Indian states sought to add online gambling to their local gambling bans.
The most recent was Karnataka in October 2021. As an attempt to amend the Karnataka Police Act of 1963, the legislature of the state attempted to pass a bill to ban all forms of gambling in the state, including online betting.
By February 2022 the high court had overruled the bill since the bill didn’t take into account the constitutional right of players to partake in games of skill.
The key differences between online betting and fantasy betting
Fantasy sports have become massively popular recently. Both locally and internationally. Fantasy sports platforms like Dream11 allow users to create their ideal sports teams. Players scoring in real events then add to a player’s ranking.
Higher ranked players can then benefit from special rewards and prices. There is definitely an aspect of skill involved if you want to stand the chance to win anything. The courts tend to agree, protecting it as a legitimate business activity under Article 19(1)(g) of the constitution of India.
Online betting is somewhat different. While betting on horse racing is usually viewed as a game of skill and therefore excluded from most gambling restrictions, the same doesn’t apply to wagering on other sports. With the exception of Sikkim and Meghalaya, most sports betting throughout the country is banned. However, these laws don’t officially apply to online betting, creating yet another legal loophole.
Where do the courts stand on fantasy betting?
That brings us back to the fantasy betting loophole, before the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act of 2021 was struck down, the prominent fantasy sports platform was brought to court over a FIR registered by the Bengaluru City Police on charges of violating the Amendment.
Other states have attempted to ban online gaming and have seen a similar fate. Tamil Nadu attempted to amend its Gaming and Police Laws Act in 2021, but the Madras High court struck it down. The same happened in Kerala when they tried to prohibit online rummy games, to no avail.
In October 2021, Bengaluru police prepared a summons for Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth, the founders of Dream11. The idea was that their platform went against the Karnataka gambling amendment. That said, after the Amendment was overruled, the summons was thrown out, and Dream11 has since then been free to continue as before.
It’s all played out well for Dream11 as they are now considered one of India’s true unicorns, as a private start-up valued at over $1 billion.