On Tuesday, September 21, the Karnataka government passed an amendment to bring under police supervision online gambling, betting and wagering in all forms. The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill 2021 proposes to make changes to the gaming and police laws which seek to provide a curb on the above mentioned illegal businesses. Even though the bill in it’s own right comes with well meaning intentions, confusion is high among the Indian esports industry, because this bill in its jurisdiction penalises legitimate online fantasy sport businesses and treats them in the same category as illegal online gambling, betting and wagering platforms.
Penalising of Online Fantasy Sports by new Karnataka State Govt. bill
Online Fantasy Sports is a one-of-a-kind legal category of digital sports interaction platforms based on officially sanctioned real-world sporting events. Through an broad and imprecise definition of “gaming”, it appears that the Bill wants to treat unequal parties similarly, which would be a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. The FIFS members ask the government to recognise and align with the judicial and constitutional safeguards afforded to online fantasy sports because of their unique character.
Today, India has the world’s largest user population for online Fantasy Sports, and the Indian entrepreneurs who created these enterprises exemplify the Honourable Prime Minister’s vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The State Government must recognise that the Bill’s unintended benefactors would be grey market platforms and overseas online gambling/betting organisations, which represent a severe risk to Indian customers.
According to a NITI Aayog report on Online Fantasy Sports, the industry has the potential to add over 12,000 more highly skilled technical jobs in the next few years, while attracting over INR 10,000 crore in FDI. Other than this, the industry has the capability to generate over INR 13,500 crore in tax revenue for the government. For the industry’s orderly growth and development, FIFS members think that predictability is essential to the rule of law. As a result, the Bill must provide certainty and clarity to legitimate enterprises, investors, and consumers.
Members of FIFS, it goes without saying, have been providing outstanding service both nationally and in the state of Karnataka by sponsoring, investing in, and developing the sports ecosystem. Our member companies have stakes and partnerships in almost every major sports event, league, international, and national level competition. Such contradictory messages from the Karnataka government could stymie the state’s sports development.