SC Upholds Dream11 Online Fantasy Sports Format as Game of Skill
Moneylife Digital Team 04 August 2021
While dismissing a special leave petition (SLP), the Supreme Court has upheld that the online fantasy sports format offered by Dream11 is game of skill. The SLP has alleged that the online fantasy sports (OFS) format offered by Dream11 amounted to gambling, wagering and betting and is not a game of skill. 
 
The apex court has reaffirmed judgements passed by the Punjab & Haryana High Court and the Bombay High Court, and upheld judgment passed by Rajasthan High Court, where the legality of the online fantasy sports format as offered by Dream11 as a 'game of skill' was sustained.
 
Separately, the Madras High Court in a recent judgement, has called the legislation by Tamil Nadu government legislation banning online rummy as 'crass, capricious' and 'oozes state paternalism and "invalid in every pore". More about it later. 
 
Senior counsel Gopal Jain, who represented Dream11, says, "The Supreme Court, while dismissing the SLP against Rajasthan High Court order, has emphasized that, with the dismissal of SLPs against orders of Punjab & Haryana and Bombay High Court, the issue of gambling is already decided by it. Simply put, the fantasy sports formats, which are in line with the analysis of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, are games of skill and are legal formats no more open to scrutiny." 
 
In a release, Dream11 says its format of online fantasy sport is based on the format approved by the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports Federation (FIFS), currently the only judicially affirmed and industry-recognised format that is permitted under law. 
 
"We hope that the online fantasy sports industry continues to abide by the judicial precedents as mentioned above and follow the rules of fair play, ethics and governance established and administered by the FIFS," it added.
 
Coming back to the Madras HC order, a division bench of chief justice Sanjib Banerjee and justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, declared the legislation brought the TN government for banning online games, as 'to be ultra vires the Constitution of India'.
 
According to a report from Taxsutra.com, the HC held "…the impugned legislation has to be regarded as something done…capriciously, irrationally and without adequate determining principle such that it is excessive and disproportionate…"
 
Quipping that the impugned legislation oozes 'state paternalism', and finding force in petitioners' submission that section 11 of the amended Act turns the existing statute (TN Gaming Act 1930) on its head, the HC stated "What was once the exemption or escape provision has now been given the most claustrophobic stranglehold and has the possibility of bringing about the most ridiculous and unwanted results if applied in letter and spirit."
 
The bench concluded that the amendment is disproportionate to the object it sets out and that no part of it can be saved. The HC struck down the amendment in its entirety. 
 
In February this year, the TN Gaming Act was introduced in the legislative assembly. Junglee Games India Pvt Ltd has challenged the Act in the High Court.
 
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