Even as the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court hears a petition on how online gaming operators are using the star power of cricketers like Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli to attract players to indulge in real money gaming, the Tamil Nadu government has left a ‘legal’ window of opportunity for fantasy cricket operators. (More Cricket News)
Unlike the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which have banned all forms of online gaming, including fantasy cricket, the amended Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930 has cleverly retained a new section to exempt “if a game played is a game of skill.”
Card games like rummy and poker have bore the brunt of the Tamil Nadu ordinance. Fantasy cricket has found the ‘gap’ between the legal clauses much to the chagrin of the rummy operators.
Thus, according to Tamil Nadu, betting or wagering on games of skill (apart from poker and rummy) on the Internet is not specifically an offence. Last week, the Madras High Court chastised Ganguly and Kohli for endorsing fantasy sports that encourage betting and gambling.
SKILL VS LUCK
Jay Sayta, an expert on gaming laws and regulations, said, “Since only poker and rummy among skill games have been specifically included in the offence relating to wagering or betting in cyberspace and the exemption from games of skill has not been deleted, it can be argued that other categories of skill games have not been made illegal in Tamil Nadu.”
At least three High Courts have ruled that fantasy sports (read cricket) is a game of skill. Most of these court hearings were disposed of without much deliberations.
Whether fantasy sports is indeed a game of skill is pending in the Supreme Court. There are petitions pending against Dream11, arguably the biggest fantasy cricket operator in India. Dream11 were the title sponsors of IPL earlier this year, and at least six of the eight IPL teams wear their logo.
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Apart from Dream11, Ganguly-endorsed My11Circle is gaining strides in the fantasy sports domain. Interestingly, the parent company of My11Circle, Games 24×7, is one of India’s leading rummy operators.
My11Circle is also sponsoring state T20 tournaments like in Bengal, Ganguly’s home state. On Sunday, the former captain was branded “greedy” and “unethical” by cricket historian and author Ramachandra Guha for endorsing fantasy sports despite being the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Both Dream11 and My11Circle did not respond to Outlook‘s question if they would run their fantasy sports operations in Tamil Nadu, although it can be argued that fantasy sports or other skill-based games played for real money are not covered within the ambit of the new Tamil Nadu law.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana legislations, on the other hand, had deleted the provision granting exemptions for skill games altogether and all online games played for stakes or prizes have been made illegal.
“The language used in the Tamil Nadu ordinance is different from that used in the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh legislations. Based on the language used in the Tamil Nadu Ordinance, a view can be taken that fantasy sports, being ruled a game of skill by few High Courts is permitted to be offered for real money,” explained Sayta.
All eyes will now be on the Madras High Court in early December. If the Madras High Court or Supreme Court (where the matter on fantasy sports is pending), rules fantasy sports to be a game of chance, then services would have to be stopped in the state. Until then, it is not expressly banned.
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