Playing fantasy games online requires considerable skill, judgment and discretion, the Punjab and Haryana high court has held and observed that such games can’t be considered gambling.
The observations were made by Justice Amit Rawal recently after a resident of Chandigarh, Varun Gumber, approached the court claiming that he had been a victim of illegal gambling on fantasycricket.dream11.com. According to the petition, he had lost money while playing some games. Gumber had demanded criminal prosecution of the company under the Public Gambling Act, 1867.
Gumber had registered himself on the website on March 9 and transferred Rs 50,000 in the website account through his credit card to participate in various leagues created on the said website.
He created a virtual team for a cricket match between Ireland and Afghanistan by choosing 11 players. The petitioner submitted that at the end of the match, he lost Rs 24,000, which he had bet on his virtual team while playing in various leagues.
On March 11, the petitioner created another virtual team, this time for a football match played between Manchester City and Middleborough and bet Rs 26,000 on his team. Again he ended up losing the amount. According to the petitioner, the nature of the activity on the website was not based on skill and was purely a game of chance, amounting to gambling which is prohibited under law.
Denying the allegations, the company contested the petition claiming that they are registered with the ministry of commerce and being assessed by the income tax department.
After hearing both parties, the high court observed, “Petitioner himself created a virtual team of a cricket match between two countries by choosing players, who were to play for two countries collectively and after forming a virtual team as per his own selection, knowledge and judgment, which is thoughtful will, he joined various leagues and after registration which was declared before participating, was not about possibility of winning or losing like horse riding not every bettor is winner”.
In the 29-page order, the court also held that gambling is not a trade and thus, not protected by Article 19 (1)(g) (right to practice profession/trade) of the Constitution. Thus, fantasy games of the company can’t be termed as gambling and that playing these games involves substantial skill. The court also observed that this is a business activity with due registration which pays service tax and income tax. Thus, the company has protection granted under Article 19 (1)(g) of the Constitution.