Online Fantasy games are the new craze and are gaining popularity in the country. Various online gaming platforms are attracting virtual players where players can create virtual teams to play fantasy games. Earlier these online games were provided free on the internet and were considered a good source of entertainment but with time, these games have started involving monetary considerations. Some game formats allow players to play online with other players after putting money at stake and at the end of the game, the winner is given the prize money after a prescribed fee/cut by the online gaming platform. In other formats, virtual users select their virtual teams by selecting as many players as in real-life teams. The participants are lured to put money at stake on their selected teams and then these participants compete with virtual teams created by other participants. The winners are decided based on the actual performance of the players playing a real match on the ground. If the set of players selected by the virtual user perform better in the real match, that user is bound to win. The amount collected from each participant is pooled and is later distributed among participants as prize money after the conclusion of the game. Some users/participants make a quick buck while others lose their money.
Involvement of money has given rise to a controversy that these online games are nothing but online gambling with more people getting attracted to these games to earn quick money. This betting is being promoted through advertisements by online gaming companies. Writ petitions were filed in Hon’ble High Courts of various States pleading to take action to ban these online gaming platforms as they promote betting. However, based on the facts of the case and on the basis of records, it has been held by the Courts that these games depend on the superior knowledge, judgment and attention of the contestant and are thus “games of skill”. By holding that these games are not games of chance but games of skill, courts have held that these games are not gambling/betting.
In the above circumstances, these games have escaped action under the Prevention of Gambling Act, 1977. After getting favorable orders from courts various online gaming platforms have mushroomed in the country offering different online games like Cricket, Cards, Ludo, etc where players put money at stake and play in online mode with opponents. Most of the gaming platforms have developed their apps and have thus made it easier for the participants to play it on their mobiles. The app downloads are increasing incessantly with more and more people entering these gaming platforms to play with an intention to earn money. Such apps also violate the Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956 as these games attract such youngsters to earn easy money.
However, a holistic view is needed keeping in view that these games are partially games of luck or chance. For instance, in an online cricket fantasy game, the whole chance depends on the actual performance of the player who plays on the field in the real match which is an event of chance at the end of the participant of the online game. Similarly, in an online ludo game, the winning move is based on a roll of dice which is also an event of chance and in a game of cards, the winning move is partially based on the set of cards received by the players which again is an event of chance. There is some sort of skill like the selection of players in online cricket platforms, playing strategically with whatever numbers are offered on a dice in the online ludo games and playing decisively with whatever cards received in online card games but these games are not entirely based on skill. These online games can be called a mix of chance and skill where chance has a major role to play. Software-based online games are games of chance and are not skill-based. If these games are “Games of Skill” then games played in casinos can also be considered as games of skill as skill is also required to play and win in casino games. Casino games are considered as games of chance and are considered as gambling which is why these casinos operate under the regulated provisions of local State Government Acts. Further, these online games do not provide any learning or skill development. The game depends upon luck and with money at stake along with an intention of winning money, the provisions of the Prevention of Gambling Act should apply to such online games. Some sort of clear guidelines is required so that there is no scope for doubt whether any online game is a “Game of Skill” or “Game of Chance”.
Some sort of regulation is required to control these online games which involve money because these online games are mushrooming and luring young minds to play for easy money. The young minds are getting attracted to betting and are losing money. On the other hand, the government is also losing tax revenue. The government must regulate these online fantasy games by clearly holding that wherever money is put at stake and games are played for winning money then these games should fall under the act of gambling/betting.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.