Fantasy Sports in India has attracted Rs 10,000 cr in FDI so far: Joy Bhattacharjya

“First, people need to understand that fantasy sports is a game of skill. There is clear evidence from various studies conducted in different countries at different times that fantasy sport is a game of skill. It is a challenge to explain this to the people,” says Joy Bhattacharjya, Director General, Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports.

In this interview with Adgully, Bhattacharjya speaks at length about the potential of fantasy sports in a country like India, the challenges, as well as other issues. Excerpts:

How are sports leagues using Fantasy Sports as their primary tool of fan engagement? How do Fantasy Sports help in providing a holistic sports experience?

Fantasy sports started in India with a game called ‘Super Selector’, around 22 years back, and it had one objective – to increase engagement and TV viewership in non-India cricket matches. Other than just watching the game, a spectator now had a personal interest in how the players selected for their teams are performing. This kind of personal interest and audience engagement is one of the strongest attractions of the sport. Hence, ‘Super Selector’ proved to be a highly successful programme and achieved its target. 

There is well-documented evidence, especially in the United States, of how sporting leagues around the world benefit from these collaborations with fantasy sports operators. In India, we see them mostly as sponsors, but the integration has started. There is still a lot to go in terms of how we can go about it and even though we are already the world’s largest fantasy sports market in terms of audience size, there is even better scope for fantasy sports in India in the coming times. The moment you play a fantasy sport, your involvement in the game increases and you change from a passive viewer to an active participant.

How is fantasy sports helping in increasing real-life sports consumption?

What happens is fans in fantasy sports target specific matches or a particular tournament in which their favourite players or team are playing. While doing this, they tend to go beyond their own team’s performance, and then they slowly garner interest in other areas of their sport. Once they know all the players, apart from their favourite ones, they know all the statistics, and they have information about various other external factors such as weather conditions, news of any injuries, pitch conditions, etc., and they tend to become better players. Because of their knowledge of the sport, fantasy sports users slowly become active participants rather than remaining just passive viewers of the sport.

What is the future of Fantasy Sports in India? What is the role of the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) in this regard?

Fantasy Sports in India has attracted Rs 10,000 crore in FDI so far, and the next three years could see a further Rs 15,000 crore flowing into India. Fantasy Sports has already contributed Rs 1,500 crore in cumulative taxes till FY 21. This is expected to rise to Rs 16,000 crore (cumulatively) by FY 25. Along with that, we expect the industry to create 12,000 highly skilled direct and indirect jobs by the end of 2023. We believe that with a stable regulatory environment and reasonable taxes, the industry will continue to grow at a fast rate. The idea behind setting up the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports was because fantasy sports is an industry where there is a lot of interest from consumers. The industry has the ability to get consumers to participate in the sport. But, at the same time, it also opens itself to certain cons. 

In the absence of central laws, it was decided that some of the prominent operators should get together, and there was a need to set up an association to primarily do two things. Firstly, to create clear rules dictating the kinds of fantasy sports that are acceptable, and stay completely away from betting and gambling of any kind. Second was the need to protect the consumers. Once the consumer was protected, the industry had the opportunity to become much larger. So, FIFS makes sure that every one of its members complies with a certain format of the game, which is approved by the guardian sports boards of the respective countries such as ICC, FIFA, etc., the operators play the game in a legally acceptable way, and it also makes sure that the consumers are protected.

What are the issues affecting the growth of fantasy sports in India, such as the lack of uniform regulations? What needs to be done to strengthen the industry? What is the role of the FIFS in this regard? 

First, people need to understand that fantasy sports is a game of skill. There is clear evidence from various studies conducted in different countries at different times that fantasy sport is a game of skill. It is a challenge to explain this to the people. It is a challenge that we are trying to solve but the good news is that more and more people are beginning to understand that it is not gambling, but that there is more skill involved here. 

To strengthen the industry, the government needs to do its part, and I think they have already started taking steps in the right direction. The government rules have unfortunately fallen behind while dealing with fast-changing technologies. So, what we are looking forward to from the government is to define what constitutes the Fantasy Sports industry, to set up a resolution where they can clearly dictate the allowed formats, and we will definitely support them.

There is currently a gap when it comes to providing sufficient information to fans in terms of statistics, information to improve their skills, etc. What needs to be done in this regard at the industry and government levels?

Information is available on various cricket sites. But, at the same time, I believe that the information needs to be readily available to the users. A lot of fantasy sports operators will provide users with tips, and statistics, among other things. I think it is important because fantasy sports are meant to increase your enjoyment and knowledge of the game, and the more you know about the game, the more you get to enjoy it. So, there are platforms available with the information, but the process to make them easily available to the public needs to be worked upon and there is a lot of work that needs to be done in this regard.


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