[EXCLUSIVE] – NITI Aayog draft document on fantasy sports to be deliberated by Cabinet: PMO

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has indicated that the ‘Draft Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India’ released by the NITI Aayog in December 2020 as well as need for a central regulatory framework for online gaming in India may be deliberated upon by the Council of Ministers.

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PMO has given this official response in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by G2G Editorial Advisor and gaming lawyer Jay Sayta.

In reply to Sayta’s queries, Parveen Kumar, Under Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office refused to divulge further details on the feedback given by PMO or inter-departmental discussion relating to draft guidelines on fantasy sports or policy to be framed for online gaming, rummy, gambling and betting etc.

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Kumar cited provisions of Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act, 2005 to deny disclosing further information on the proposed policy relating to online gaming. Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act exempts the government from disclosing information relating to ‘cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers.’

PMO has not given any indication of the timelines of taking a decision on the matter or the departments view on the issue. Last month, it was reported that the PMO is looking into the issue of online real money games and has called for files lying with the NITI Aayog to examine the issue in detail and take inputs from different ministries.

The NITI Aayog on the other hand replied to RTI query posed before it by stating that the matter was still under in the government, without divulging any further details. It provided the following justification for not releasing complete information about draft guidelines for online fantasy sports:

‘The draft document [on online fantasy sports released by it] was by way of a research initiative and released for the sole purpose of seeking stakeholder and general public comments. As indicated in the draft document it did not reflect the views of NITI Aayog and was the starting point to seek comments from the public on the need and structure of the proposed guidelines on the structure and regulation of the sector. While with the release of the draft document ta (sic) consultative process for drafting of guidelines for a sunrise sector was initiated the further process required further deliberations within the Government. Comments have been received to the draft document which have been examined and collated and presently the subject matter is under consideration in the Government.’

It remains to be seen whether the cabinet and central government takes the matter forward and releases any policy or regulations for the online real money gaming sector anytime soon or reiterates its long-held view that state governments should formulate their own policy on the subject.