Five Key Issues on Betting and Gambling in India in 2019

2019 witnessed some of the highest investments made in the gaming industry in India. From various deal reports posted on, it could be noted that overall investment in the gaming industry touched approximately INR 1400 Crore. If we further break down the gaming industry into sub-industries, it can be broadly divided into four parts:

(i) fantasy sports; (ii) quizzing applications; (iii) e-sports and (iv) other skill-based games including poker, rummy etc. (“Other Skill Games”). In 2019, while there were multiple investments in fantasy sports platforms, quizzing applications platforms and e- sport platforms, there was no reported investment in any platforms offering Other Skill Games.

Fantasy Sports

A fantasy sport is basically a game which allows users to create virtual teams online, consisting of a real-life sportsperson playing for a particular sport. Some common examples of fantasy sports platforms are Dream11, Ballebaazi, PlayerzPot, My11Circle etc. The performance of these real-life sportspersons is converted into points on the fantasy sports platform and the user accumulating highest points wins the game.

There has been much debate on whether fantasy sports are considered as games involving a high degree of skill or as games of chance. This becomes an important question because under Indian law, only games of skill are legal in a majority of Indian states.

In 2018, a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT Study”) concluded that some fantasy sports users know more about statistics, rules of the sports, in-form players and all of this helps them select a better fantasy sports team. The MIT Study focused on the mathematics behind the operation of fantasy sports and concluded that although there is some element of luck in fantasy sports, the aspect of skill tends to be more dominant than luck.

Banking on this global understanding that a majority of fantasy sports are skill-based, fantasy sports in India has seen substantial investments in 2019. On the basis of publicly available details about the above mentioned investments, we have observed that close to INR 1,400 Crores (approximately $196 Million) has been invested in the fantasy gaming industry in India.

A snapshot of the most noteworthy investments in the fantasy sports industry in 2019 is as follows:


Fantasy Sports Platform

Investment Size



Not available

Vereeni Investments


$   4   Million   (approximately   2Crore)

1.  Snap Angel Tech

2.  A Singapore based fund (details not available)

 Mobile Premier League

$ 35.5 Million (approximately 

248 Crore).

1.     Sequioa Capital India

2.    Times Internet

3.    Go Ventures

4.    RTP Global

5.    BeeNext

6.    Base Growth

7.    Venture Highway


Not available

Sports Gaming UK


₹   15.50   Crore   (approximately   $

2.2 Million)

Delta Corp Limited


$ 60 Millio(approximatel₹ 42Crore)


Note: This is the first Indian unicorn in the fantasy sports industry.

Steadview Capital

Quizzing Platforms

Unlike fantasy sports and Other Skill Games, it is almost universally accepted that online quizzes are a game of skill and not a game of chance. Therefore, unlike fantasy sports and Other Skill Games, there have been no litigations challenging the legality of online quizzes against quizzing platforms. This is because, in terms of application of “skill” in games, quizzes seem to be far more straightforward and less time consuming, since you either know the answer or you don’t. There is no mid way!

A snapshot of noteworthy investments in quizzing platforms in 2019 is as follows:

Fantasy                        Sports Platform

Investment Size



₹ 7.5 Crores (approximately $

1.05 Million)

1.     Nazara Technologies Limited

2.    Vaibhav Gaggar


$   1   Million   (approximately

7.1 Crore)

Smile Group


Investment in e-sport platforms

E-sports” are basically online multiplayer video game competitions, in which players participate either individually or as teams. Some common examples of video games in which multiplayer competitions are held are FIFA, Counter Strike, DOTA, Overwatch and PUBG. Since, the outcome of these games is dependent on the skill of the players, the legality of e-sports is not contested as such

A snapshot of investment in e-sport platform in 2019 is as follows:

Fantasy                         Sports Platform

Investment Size


Real 8 Ball Pool

₹ 5 Crores (approximately $ 705 Thousand)

1.    Dr. Ranjan Pai’ MEMG

family office

2.   Titan Capital

3.   Few     High     Net-Worth Individual              Investors (details not available).


Investment in Other Skill Games

Investments in applications dealing exclusively with poker or rummy have not been reported in 2019. This might not come as a surprise to many, as the legal position on poker is still not clear in India. Until a definitive, detailed judgment from the Supreme Court of India or a Central legislation is introduced by the Parliament to finally determine the legality of poker, investors might choose to ignore these applications and may focus on fantasy sports or quizzing applications.


Author’s Take

Reports suggest that the online gaming industry in India will see a continuous growth and is expected to be worth INR 11,900 Crores by 2022-2023. The gaming industry in India is at a crucial point. On one hand, we see that the number of gaming platforms is continuously increasing and they are gradually attracting investments from marquee foreign investors. However, the question on the legality of certain games is still unclear in India which has impeded the growth of the gaming industry in India as investors don’t want to invest in platforms which may become illegal tomorrow.

For instance, the Bombay High Court in Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India and the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Varun Gumber v. Union territory of Chandigarh, have ruled that Dream11 is a game of skill and therefore declared fantasy sports to be legal in India as long as they follow the ‘gameplay model’ offered by Dream11. However, the Supreme Court of India is yet to look into the merit of the cases filed against Dream11. Though the Supreme Court recently dismissed the special leave petitions filed against the Bombay High Court judgment, it has not yet decided on the merits of the case. Therefore, though Dream 11 is legal today, the same can change if the Supreme Court overrules the decisions of the Bombay and the Punjab and Haryana High Courts (discussed above).

The legality of poker, on the other hand, is much more complicated. While the Gujarat High Court, in Dominance Games v. State of Gujarat initially held that poker is a game of chance and hence illegal, other High Courts have refused to make a ruling on this issue. For instance, the Delhi High Court, in an order dated November 27, 2019 dismissed the petition filed for determining the legality of poker and other online games. It went on to direct the Central Government and the Delhi government to take a decision on banning certain online poker and card gaming websites after ascertaining whether they hosted games of skills or chance.

Therefore, while it remains to be seen how the Central Government or the Supreme Court deal with the curious case of gaming in India, it has not deterred the foreign investors from tapping into a potentially humongous gaming industry. This certainly portrays a rosy picture of the future of the gaming industry in India and may result in some major policy changes in 2020.

Disclaimer: This post has been prepared for informational purposes only. The information/or observations contained in this post does not constitute legal advice and should not be acted upon in any specific situation without seeking proper legal advice from a practicing attorney.

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