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Can fantasy sports curb illegal sports betting in India?

Can fantasy sports curb illegal sports betting in India?

Gambling and sports betting in India go back a long way. Quoting ancient civic texts like Manusmriti, the Law Commission of India recommended legalizing sports betting in India back in 2018. At present, sports betting is being practiced ignoring law. Online sports betting has seen exponential growth in the last few years. This raises the question whether fantasy sports platforms can finally curb or maybe even legalize sports betting in India.

Fantasy sports, unlike sports betting, are considered to be games of skill and hence are legal to play for cash as well as for free in India. The fantasy sports industry is estimated to be at Rs. 43.8 billion currently and is estimated to reach around Rs. 118 billion by 2023. On the other hand, despite the presence of fantasy sports, and the fact that sports betting is illegal, sports betting as an industry is estimated to be worth nearly Rs. 3000 billion, according to a FICCI report. This money changes hands through bookies, international websites, or tech-enabled channels such as encrypted chat rooms. 

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Let us take a look at the advantages of legalizing or curbing sports betting in India. The FICCI reported that the government is losing tax revenue worth Rs. 19,000 crore every year by rendering sports betting illegal. Apart from tax revenue that the government can generate by legalizing sports betting, the government should also look at Goa and Sikkim for example. These states have legalized gambling, which has created over 10,000 jobs. Apart from this, illegal sports betting is also responsible for funding terror activities across the globe, and legalizing it can help the government monitor the flow of money and put a stop on terror funding.

The main reason behind the government refraining from legalizing sports betting is that the government wants to ensure the welfare of the citizens. Sports betting is based on luck and people are known to have lost their entire fortunes by betting. Many young people are also enamored by the promise of quick money but they end up getting involved in more illegal activities to recover from their losses in sports betting.

The emergence of the fantasy sports industry has surely made a small dent in the revenues of the sports betting industry. Going forward, with innovation and new technologies being incorporated into fantasy sports platforms, we could see fantasy sports depriving the sports betting industry of an even bigger share by encouraging sports gamblers to quit betting and play fantasy sports but it will still require full government support and a governing body of fantasy sports to ensure protection against malpractices.

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