technology

Karnataka gaming ban: FIR against Dream11 founders, firm says compliant with laws


Bengaluru Police are preparing to summon Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth, co-founders of the fantasy sports platform Dream11 in connection with an FIR they have registered on charges of violating the new law banning wagering and betting in online games.

The FIR, registered by Annapoorneshwarinagar Police in West Bengaluru, names the cofounders of the fantasy sports platform as accused. The police are preparing to issue a notice seeking their presence to respond to the charges made in a complaint by Manjunatha, a city-based cab driver.

In a statement to ET, Dream11, however, said the complaint was “motivated,” and it is examining legal remedies.

It said Karnataka’s law is not applicable to games of skill but only gambling or betting, and added that it was a “responsible, law abiding company and will extend our full cooperation to any authorities.”

The complainant said he checked on the Google Play Store to see if online gaming apps were still available in Karnataka after the Legislature had recently amended the Police Act. He found many had blocked access while Dream11 was still operational. “It provides a platform for players to create their fantasy team based on a real-life match to score maximum points and win exciting cash prizes worth crores,” he said. According to him Dream11 continued with its promotions to attract users to its platform and that it was an offence under Section 80 of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963.

“Big Win”

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Karnataka’s Home Minister Araga Jnanendra called the first case booked under the new law as a “big win” in the government’s fight against online gambling. Online betting games, he told ET, were ruining the lives of many people, and the government was receiving a lot of appreciation from the public for bringing the law.

Many online game operators, the minister said, have blocked access to the games in Karnataka after the law was notified last week. The government, he said, has only banned games of chance, and not the games of skill. But one cannot allow betting and wagering even on games of skill.

Jnanendra urged members of the public to inform the police if they came across any instances of violation of the law.

Game of Skill

Many courts and the apex court have upheld the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS)-approved format of fantasy sports as a game of skill, and are not involved in gambling, betting or wagering, a statement from FIFS, shared by Dream11, said.

“Being a legal business activity, Fantasy Sports would not be covered under “gaming” as defined in Section 2(7) of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021. The legal advice and a written legal opinion received by FIFS from a former Supreme Court Judge reaffirms that the said amendment is not applicable to Operators following FIFS’ format of Fantasy Sports, the company said.

Besides Dream11, platforms like MPL, Games24X7 are also impacted by the new state law and have reportedly blocked users in the state.

The new law, notified on October 5, bans online games that are “games of chance” in nature. It makes operation, abetting or sheltering of online games involving exchange of money, betting and wagering “cognizable and non-bailable offence.” The law imposes a prison term of up to three years and fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, and in some cases both, for the offenders.



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