Rajasthan High Court dismisses plea seeking ban on online fantasy games

In what can be termed as an important development for India’s online gaming business, Rajasthan High Court dismissed a plea seeking ban on providing or playing online fantasy games in the State after noting that such a direction would contradict Article 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, Live Law reported.

ALSO READ: Challenge to online rummy, poker ban: Madras HC reserves judgment, verdict likely on 3rd August

A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Satish Kumar observed, “We are, therefore, of the view that offering of online fantasy sports in accordance with the Charter of the FIFS has already been judicially recognized as a business and consequently, entitled to protection under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India and the prayer seeking directions to the State Government to prohibit the same would be opposed to Article 14 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.”

The petition was aimed at regulating or banning the offering and playing of any online fantasy game or other online games requiring “mere skill by putting money at stake in expectation of winning”.

ALSO READ: NITI Aayog draft document on fantasy sports to be deliberated by Cabinet: PMO

Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) submitted a reply in which it relied on the judgments of several courts to argue that online fantasy sports are skills activities that are different from gambling and have the protection provided for under Article 19(1) (g).

Draft self-regulation guidelines released by NITI Aayog, and the IIM Bangalore research were used to show that the creation of teams on a fantasy sports platform required more skills than a fund manager who manages a mutual fund portfolio.

“Having heard learned counsel for the respective parties and their pleadings, it is clear that the petitioners have sought for directions to the State Government to make appropriate Legislation to prohibit all sorts of online gaming activities, notwithstanding whether they are games of mere skill or games of chance with more emphasis on online fantasy sports,” the Court noted, further adding that plea was merely an attempt of reviewing its judgment in the Ravindra Singh Chaudhary c. Union of India & Ors, which saw the plea against fantasy sports giant Dream11 dismissed.

“Since the result of fantasy game depends on skill of participant and not sheer chance, and winning or losing of the virtual team created by the participant is also independent of the outcome of the game or event in the real world, we hold that the format of online fantasy game offered by respondent No.5 is a game of mere skill and their business has protection under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India, as repeatedly held by various Courts and affirmed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” held the Court before proceeding to dismiss the instant petition.