Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Fantasy sports grow in cricket crazy India


When India played its old foe Pakistan in a World Cup cricket game in 2015, a staggering 1 billion people were estimated to have tuned in to watch, while the average viewership for its national side in a big game is about 400 million.

The figures clearly illustrate the potential of the fantasy cricket market in India, while a recent regulatory breakthrough may have set a legal precedent giving a further boost to the market.

In December, the state of Nagaland issued its first licenses for online games of skill under the Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act 2016. Although these licenses were related to online poker companies, it helps establish the legality of games of skill.

Under Indian law, games of chance are illegal, apart from in the states of Goa, Sikkim and Daman, while a 2006 Supreme Court ruling stated games in which skill is the dominant factor in determining the outcome were legal. That included fantasy sports.

However, Nagaland was the first to actually issue licenses.

“The Act provides much needed clarity on the legalisation and regulation of poker and other skill-based games in India. The efforts of the Nagaland government must be truly appreciated and applauded,” said Mithun Rebello, director of Quantumskill Gaming and Tech Pvt. Ltd. said after receiving an online poker license.

In terms of fantasy cricket, about a dozen websites are currently operational in the country, offering the Freemium model, under which a player can win money by registering as a paid user. Those who do not wish to pay to join can still play but cannot win money.

Although the current size of the market is small, it is estimated to be growing in double digits, helped by increasing internet usage.

Gaming expert Jay Sayta, founder of glaws.com, says the market for fantasy cricket is currently around $15 million to $20 million, so a relatively small part of the more than $100 million skill-based market overall. However he says growth is “rapid.”

The number of Internet users in India is expected to touch 500 million 2017, with as many as 400 million users accessing the Internet through their mobile phones.

Dream11.com is the current leader in the field, and according to its web site boasts 4 million users in both India and the U.S. The company was founded in 2012 by entrepreneurs Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth.

Oye Capitain, which launched last year, also says it has seen strong growth.

A spokesman for Oye Capitain, which is owned by Mirsch Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, which also operates the Thrill Poker website, said the site has more than 50,000 registered users and is also adding football to its offering.

“We have been lucky in formalizing long-term arrangements with the country’s newest and largest sports media companies,” the spokesman said, adding the company has been successful in hitting its quarterly customer acquisition targets.

“We have always had a firm stand that fantasy cricket is a game of skill. Advertising wise, it definitely is a pain as there are many restrictions and getting people used to such a unique model itself is a challenge but we have learned to work our way around that. We have had very fruitful discussions with every media outlet we have approached online and offline for advertising the same,” said the Oye Captain spokesperson.

Sydney-based Monsterball is another new entrant to the market. Ten weeks after launching in June last year, the site had already surpassed the number of registered players in its home market of Australia.

Under the Foreign Direct Investment Policy of India issued by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, Foreign Direct Investment is prohibited in companies involved in lottery, online lotteries and gambling.

However, this ruling was thought to apply primarily to games of chance and should not extend to the skill-games sector.

“Playing fantasy cricket tests our knowledge of the game. It involves some skill and some luck,” one player, who declined to be named told AGB. He said he had won about $350 over the past year, with the money transferred efficiently into his account within seven days.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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