The Bombay High Court recently dismissed a criminal plea filed by a lawyer alleging that playing an online fantasy sports game, Dream 11, is gambling and should be taxed.
A Division Bench of Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre was hearing a criminal public interest litigation petition filed by Gurdeep Sachar. The petition sought directions to initiate criminal prosecution against Dream 11 Fantasy Private Limited for allegedly conducting illegal operations of gambling/betting/wagering in the guise of online fantasy sports gaming.
Mr. Sachar said it attracts penal provisions of the Public Gambling Act, and alleged evasion of the Goods and Services Tax.
The court said success in Dream 11’s fantasy sports depends upon the user’s exercise of skill based on superior knowledge, judgement and attention, and the result thereof is not dependent on the winning or losing of a particular team in the real world game on any particular day.
Mr. Sachar contended that on the website, players can create different virtual teams for playing fantasy games. For understanding and getting a know-how of the game, an option to play for free is also available on the website.
He claimed that the fantasy games are such that after some time, people tend to pay with their hard-earned money, instead of playing for free. So according to him, these fantasy games are nothing but a means to lure people to spend their money for quick earning by taking a chance, and most of them end up losing their money in the process, which is thus gambling/betting/wagering.
The advocate appearing for the company relied upon on a Punjab Haryana High Court judgement, which said, “The success in Dream 11’s fantasy sports basically arises out of the user’s exercise of superior knowledge, judgement and attention thus as per their skill; and that their fantasy games are exempted from the application of the penal provisions of the gambling Act.”
The Bombay HC said authorities have rightly not taken any coercive steps against Dream 11 Fantasy Private Limited. The 21-page judgement said, “It is seen that the entire case is wholly untenable, misconceived, and without any merit. It can be seen that success in Dream 11’s fantasy sports depends upon the user’s exercise of skill based on superior knowledge, judgement and attention, and the result thereof is not dependent on the winning or losing of a particular team in the real world game on any particular day. It is undoubtedly a game of skill and not of chance.”