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Online fantasy sports not gambling, rules High Court of Punjab and Haryana August, 2017

In a landmark ruling, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 18 April 2017, has held that playing fantasy games online is legal and does not fall within purview of the definition of “gambling”. The order was made by Justice Amit Rawal, who laid down that fantasy sports is a game of skill as it requires a substantial degree of skill, judgment and discretion.

The ruling was in response to a petition filed by Varun Gumber (“Petitioner”), who accused fantasycricket.dream11.com (“Website”), a fantasy sports website, of illegal gambling after the Petitioner lost money while playing games on the Website. The Petitioner approached the court to investigate the Website for promoting gambling which as per the Public Gambling Act, 1867 (“Act”) is illegal.

The court tried to interpret Section 18 of the Act, which exempts the applicability of the Act on games of ‘mere skill’. Reliance was placed on judgements passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to deduce the scope and ambit of the term ‘mere skill’ in the context of the present case, whereby it was laid down that:

  • the competitions where success depends upon the substantial degree of skill are not gambling;
  • despite there being an element of chance, if a game is preponderantly a game of skill it would nevertheless be a game of “mere skill”.

It was also observed that the Supreme Court in an earlier decision had found that horse racing like foot racing, boat racing, football and baseball is a game of skill and judgment and not a game of chance.

Similarly, in this case the hon’ble court was of the opinion that playing fantasy games online by any participant involves managing a virtual team which would require considerable skill, judgment and discretion. The participant has to assess the relative worth of each sportsperson, required to study the rules and regulations of strength of player and weakness. Therefore, fantasy sport constitutes a game in which primarily the success depends upon the superior knowledge, training, attention, experience and adroitness of the player, in essence, the skill dominates over the element of luck/chance.For detailed information, please contact us.