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Self-regulation key to responsible growth of online fantasy sports: Shailesh Haribhakti

Creating and growing this category also ties in with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of creating an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, where growth is tied to self-reliance and employment generation, he added.

IANS | New Delhi |

In December 2020, the NITI Aayog released the first-of-its-kind draft guidelines, titled ‘Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India’. These guidelines emphasise the need to differentiate between fantasy sports and online gaming, create an independent identity of the fantasy sports industry, and appoint a single-purpose self-regulatory industry body for governance.

The guidelines highlight the contribution of the Indian fantasy sports industry towards the growth of sports.

Commending NITI Aayog on the progressive guidelines, Shailesh Haribhakti, Chartered and Cost Accountant and a veteran industry leader, said, “NITI Aayog has taken progressive steps to pave the way for setting up a safe-harbour for the Online Fantasy Sports industry and provide the much-needed impetus for growth and innovation. For an industry as vibrant as fantasy sports, self-regulation is the ideal mode of governance to ensure sustained innovation and responsible conduct from the operators.”

“NITI Aayog’s proposition to set up a single self-regulatory organisation (SRO) recognised by the government, is noteworthy. A self-regulatory mechanism will ensure that the OFS industry functions in a manner that continues to benefit and protect the interests of the consumers while maintaining a governance framework that deters unscrupulous operators.”

Creating and growing this category also ties in with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of creating an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, where growth is tied to self-reliance and employment generation, he added.

As per the NITI Aayog guidelines, the online fantasy sports sector is expected to contribute nearly Rs 10,000 crore to the Indian government over the next 2-3 years by way of taxes. And in the coming few years, it also has the potential to attract FDI of more than Rs 10,000 crore and generate additional 12,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The draft guidelines from NITI Aayog examine the current state of affairs for fantasy sports and endeavour to eliminate all legal ambiguities around the industry. “NITI Aayog has noted that there is a public interest in the fantasy sports industry receiving recognition from the government and having its own identity, which is distinct from other games of skill and legally differentiated from betting and gambling. It is necessary to shift the focus away from viewing fantasy sports as an exception to betting and gambling, to eliminate the extant ambiguity that the operators encounter at the state level,” said Managing Partner, Fidus Law Chambers, Shwetasree Majumder.

Talking about the growth prospects, Rameesh Kailasam, CEO, IndiaTech said, “Providing a distinct identity to Fantasy Sports will go a long way in gaining the consumers’ trust and ensuring that all OFS platforms function responsibly and remain compliant with the prescribed format. This endeavour by NITI Aayog is a welcome step in the direction of moving towards regulatory clarity for the Online Fantasy Sports sector. Such an effort would enable both the Centre and states to work in the direction of empowering this sunrise sector which is currently dependent on various court judgments for legitimacy to distinguish itself. India also has a huge potential of creating more startups in this space that can take on the world.”

The draft guiding principles released by NITI Aayog have provided fantasy sports with the much-needed momentum for a distinct industry to emerge. A uniform national-level principle-based governance framework may be deployed to regulate with a light touch. Such progressive and supporting reforms from the government will allow fantasy sports to thrive and perhaps even make India the global hub for the industry. Sports lovers and the economy will benefit from establishing a free and regulated industry of online fantasy sports.