68% citizens want Government to create Code of Regulation for Online Fantasy Sports; Want celebrities to talk about risks too in advertisements


  • ● Approximately 12% of citizens in India are either playing online fantasy sports or have someone in the family playing it but majority citizens classify it as gambling and not skill gaming
  • ● Majority believe the Government must create the regulation and then let the industry self-regulate and report
  • ● Given the ban by 6 states, a more responsible approach by platforms needed to stop similar actions by other states in the coming years
68% citizens want Government to create Code of Regulation for Online Fantasy Sports; Want celebrities to talk about risks too in advertisements

March 24, 2021, New Delhi: Online Fantasy Sports have been in the limelight the last couple of years and are now sponsors of major sporting events encouraging people to use their platforms to form teams and earn money. For instance in Fantasy Cricket, each user can form a team of 11 real players. Stipulated credits are to be used and each real player is allotted a credit. The winning of the user is based on the performance of real players in one’s team during a particular game. It may sound like the Satta (Hindi term for Betting) or Gambling to some but the online fantasy sports platforms call it skill gaming and that is the big discussion that has been going on amongst citizens in different online communities on LocalCircles. While the courts in India have ruled majorly in favour of fantasy sports platforms and skill gaming, 6 states in India i.e. Assam, Odisha, Telangana, Nagaland, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh have banned fantasy sports. Betting and Gambling fall under the State legislature. The Andhra Pradesh Government passed an ordinance to amend the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act listing skill gaming as gambling and imposing stringent punishment to those charged with gambling. The punishment includes 6 months of imprisonment and 24 months of jail for repeat conviction. On the impact to people and families, several instances have been reported where online gaming and cricket betting has been reported as cause of suicide and those impacted include students, migrant labourers and most recently traders unable to repay the money they borrowed to play fantasy cricket.

On the other hand, the Online Fantasy Sports industry that boasts to attract the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of more than INR 10,000 crore claims to have already grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 212 per cent, from 2 million users in June 2016 to 90 million users in December 2019. In the absence of proper regulation and lack of policy clarity for OFSPs, the Government’s think-tank Niti Aayog recently published a whitepaper emphasizing the need to formulate a principle-based policy that guides the industry and promotes their growth and innovation while securing consumer interest.

Given active discussions amongst the citizenry, the social issues, the Niti Aayog whitepaper, the position taken by some of the courts and State Government in regard to Online Fantasy Sports, LocalCircles decided to conduct a study that sought to know their popularity amongst individuals and their families, their perception of whether online fantasy sports qualify as skill gaming or gambling, how advertising by platforms should work, how should they be regulated and what role Government should be playing in all of this. The survey received more than 50,000 responses from 21,000+ unique citizens located in 309 districts of India. 47% respondents were from Tier 1 districts, 29% from Tier 2 districts and 24% were located in Tier 3, 4 and rural districts of India. 69% respondents were men while 31% were women.

Approximately 12% citizens are either playing online fantasy sports or have someone in the family playing it

Fantasy Sports are played online and require a smart phone to play and have become popular in the last 2-3 years. The question sought to understand if citizens in the survey or someone in their family was playing online fantasy sport. To that, 6% respondents said “Yes, multiple members”, and another 6% said “Yes, only me”. There were 86% of citizens who said “No”, while 3% couldn’t say. Aggregate response from the poll suggests that approximately 12% of citizens are either playing online fantasy sports or have someone in the family playing it or both. The question in the survey received 8,621 responses.

Approximately 12% citizens are either playing online fantasy sports or have someone in the family playing it

Approximately 12% citizens are either playing online fantasy sports or have someone in the family playing it

Only 12% citizens believe online fantasy sports qualifies as skill gaming, while 67% classify it as gambling

Though courts in India have largely given their decisions in favour of Online Fantasy Sports platforms calling them skill gaming instead of gambling, 6 states in India i.e. Assam, Odisha, Telangana, Nagaland, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh have banned fantasy sports. To better understand whether citizens think about online fantasy sports games as skill gaming or gambling, LocalCircles asked citizens about their views. In response, only 12% said it can be classified as “skill gaming”, whereas the majority of 67% said it’s “gambling”. On the other hand, 21% of citizens who voted for “can’t say” suggested that they have not played any online fantasy games, or don’t know if such games can be classified as skill gaming or gambling. The question in the survey received 8,621 responses. This is an unusually high percentage of Can’t Say response based on LocalCircles experience in citizen pulse exercises.

Only 12% citizens believe online fantasy sports qualifies as skill gaming, while 67% classify it as gambling

Only 36% citizens support advertising by fantasy gaming platforms; most want appropriate visible and audible warnings in place

Sports channels on television and other mediums become abuzz with advertisements promoting online fantasy games featuring sports celebrities, especially during a cricket match. At these times, advertisements become the most effective way to promote such related gaming to the viewers, because it is watched by millions of Indians glued over their TV screen to watch international cricket or Indian Premier League games. Citizens via LocalCircles had flagged the issue in August 2020 to the Department of Consumer Affairs which handles Misleading Advertisement issues and post that it has been observed that warning disclaimers are appearing in some of the Online Fantasy Sports advertisements. Some courts have also raised questions to Online Fantasy Sports Platforms regarding their advertisements. For instance, High Courts of Kerala and Madras earlier issued notices to popular Indian cricketers for allegedly promoting and endorsing online gambling by using their popularity amongst citizens to promote such a game. Till LocalCircles took up the issue in August 2020, almost all platforms had no warnings in their advertisements about the risks involved in Fantasy Sports.

The next question sought to understand what citizens think about when online fantasy sports platforms advertise in television, print and digital media. Only 5% said it “should be permitted as is”, 25% said “should be permitted only with appropriate warnings, both visible and audible”, and 6% said “only surrogate or indirect advertising should be permitted like liquor, tobacco, etc”. Breaking down the poll, the majority of 54% of citizens said that it “should not be permitted to show advertisements at all”, while 10% said “can’t say”. The aggregate findings of the poll suggest that only 36% of citizens want online fantasy gaming platforms should be permitted to advertise, and most of those want appropriate visible and audible warnings in place. The question in the survey received 8,182 responses.

Only 36% citizens support advertising by fantasy gaming platforms; most want appropriate visible and audible warnings in place

Only 36% citizens support advertising by fantasy gaming platforms; most want appropriate visible and audible warnings in place

Citizens want Online Fantasy Sports advertising to be made more responsible; 57% want celebrities to also talk about the risk of loss in ads

Celebrities are often seen promoting Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India, who use their influence upon their fans into joining the game. Some sports celebrities and administrators have also been appointed as brand ambassadors of OFS platforms. Some of them even give a chance to users to meet the face of the brand or create a team with the sports celebrity. So much so that some platforms claim that the audiences' favourite cricket star is playing online with the fans, which encourages fans to join the game. But the celebrities have never talked about the risk of losing money when playing such fantasy games. Taking cognizance of the issue, the next question in the survey sought to understand citizens’ perception if sports celebrities promoting Online Fantasy Sports Platforms be required to also talk about the risk of loss in these advertisements. The majority of 57% of citizens surveyed in the poll said “Yes”. There were only 2% of citizens who said “No”, while another 2% said “can’t say”. Breaking down the poll, 20% said “celebrities should be barred from advertising for such platforms”, 17% said “platforms should not be permitted to show advertisement”. The findings indicated that citizens want Online Fantasy Sports advertising to be made more responsible; 57% want celebrities to also talk about the risk of loss in ads. The question in the survey received 8,161 responses.

Citizens want Online Fantasy Sports advertising to be made more responsible; 57% want celebrities to also talk about the risk of loss in ads

Citizens want Online Fantasy Sports advertising to be made more responsible; 57% want celebrities to also talk about the risk of loss in ads

68% citizens want Government to create guidelines or code of regulation for Online Fantasy Sports Platforms; On administration front, 49% support self-regulation, while 34% want Government to be the regulator also

Niti Aayog has drafted a whitepaper, titled "Guiding Principles for the Uniform-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India", and proposed setting up of a Self-Regulatory Organisation that will resolve differences amongst states, which currently have varying laws pertaining to the functioning of online fantasy games. The Government think-tank believes that a principle-based policy implementation for the fantasy sports industry is necessary to promote growth and innovation while securing consumer interest.

The following question that sought to understand the perception of citizen about how Online Fantasy Sports Platform should be regulated, 17% said “Self-Regulation basis Industry’s Code of Regulation”, 32% said “Self-Regulation basis Government’s Guidelines or Code of Regulation”, 34% said “Creation of a Government Regulator who administers compliance to Government Guidelines or Code of Conduct”, while 17% couldn’t say. The findings indicate that 68% of citizens want Government to create guidelines or code of regulation for Online Fantasy Sports Platforms. On the administration of the regulation, though 49% support self-regulation, 34% want Government to be the regulator also. The question in the survey received 8,108 responses.

68% citizens want Government to create guidelines or code of regulation for Online Fantasy Sports Platforms; On administration front, 49% support self-regulation, while 34% want Government to be the regulator also

68% citizens want Government to create guidelines or code of regulation for Online Fantasy Sports Platforms; On administration front, 49% support self-regulation, while 34% want Government to be the regulator also

63% citizens not in favour of Government giving legal recognition and protection to Online Fantasy Sports Platforms, while 28% citizens support giving the same

In countries like the United States of America, Online Fantasy Sports are varved out as lawful under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act 2006. Even Singapore has enacted Common Gaming Houses Act and Remote Gambling Act, which make online gambling legal only if it is done through an exempt operator. Taking cognizance of the issues, the survey sought to understand citizens’ opinion if the Online Fantasy Sports Platforms should be given legal recognition and protection in India. In response only 28% said “Yes”. The majority of 63% of citizens said “No”, while 9% couldn’t say. The question in the survey received 8,323 votes.

63% citizens not in favour of Government giving legal recognition and protection to Online Fantasy Sports Platforms, while 28% citizens support giving the same

63% citizens not in favour of Government giving legal recognition and protection to Online Fantasy Sports Platforms, while 28% citizens support giving the same

In summary, most citizens surveyed are currently of the opinion that Online Fantasy Sports Platforms classify as ‘gambling’. This is evident as 67% of citizens in the survey called it gambling while only 12% of citizens in the survey believe such games qualify as skill gaming. While a few platforms have started including warnings in their advertisements, a lot more is needed to be done on this front including messaging by the celebrities. The advertising should be such that the prospect and existing users are aware about what the risks and are not misled into using the Online Fantasy Sports Platforms. The Online Fantasy Sports regulation must be made by the Government per the citizenry in consultation with the industry and the consumers. However, the administration of compliances to such a regulation could be done by an Industry Body with transparent reporting to the Government and Civil Society.

As the end, just like the liquor industry, the revenue for the state, the job creation, the investments in the sector are reasons for states not to ban such platforms. If the consumer is informed of the risks effectively via advertisements as well as while they are engaging on the platform, the responsibility of making an informed choice then lies with the consumer. While such an approach may impact growth in the immediate term for the platforms, it is likely to provide responsible long-term growth and will change the discussion with state administrators from ban/no ban to how to operate with increased responsibly and let the consumer make the choice.

LocalCircles will be sharing the inputs of the survey with Niti Aayog and related stakeholders, all states in India so that public opinion is duly taken into consideration as rules and regulations for Online Fantasy Sports Platforms are finalised.

Survey Demographics

The survey received more than 50,000 responses from 21,000+ unique citizens located in 309 districts of India. 47% respondents were from Tier 1 districts, 29% from Tier 2 districts and 24% were located in Tier 3, 4 and rural districts of India. 69% respondents were men while 31% were women. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.

About LocalCircles

LocalCircles, India’s leading Community Social Media platform enables citizens and small businesses to escalate issues for policy and enforcement interventions and enables Government to make policies that are citizen and small business centric. LocalCircles is also India’s # 1 pollster on issues of governance, public and consumer interest. More about LocalCircles can be found on https://www.localcircles.com

For more queries - media@localcircles.com, +91-8585909866

All content in this report is a copyright of LocalCircles. Any reproduction or redistribution of the graphics or the data therein requires the LocalCircles logo to be carried along with it. In case any violation is observed LocalCircles reserves the right to take legal action.

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