Update: Reuters and PTI report that the 6UP game has been suspended, despite there being no formal complaint, taking into account the Sports Ministes views. IPL Governing Council member Rajeev Shukla has not specified for how long the game will be suspended.

Frankly, we would have preferred it if this issue had been taken up in court, and a precedence be set for other such initiatives. With the game being pulled, the ambiguity remains.

Whether or not this is gambling or mathematically predictable, of whether the government should have the right to tell us which games to play were the focus of a rather interesting to-and fro yesterday on Twitter between Kushan Mitra (Business Today), Mahesh Murthy (Seedfund/Pinstorm), Rajeev Mantri (Navam Capital), Sumant Srivatsan (Microsoft) and me. Nothing conclusive, though.

Original Story (May 12, 1247 hrs): Trouble is brewing for the SMS based 6UP game from the Board of Control for Cricket in India, reports Cricinfo, ever since the Sports Minister MS Gill said that it is similar to betting and gambling; the reason – users are paying money to make ball by ball predictions of how many runs have been scored, in the hope of winning cash prizes for a correct prediction. 6UP is powered by iPlayUP, an Australian company, according to Mint. 

Skill vs Luck = Gaming vs Gambling?

As Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan rightly pointed out on Twitter, the ability to predict the outcome of one delivery – leave alone six deliveries – is low. However, according to Mint there is some skill involved – you may have inputs of the nature of the wicket, the situation of the game, the bowler and the batsman.

The question, really, is of whether this is more a game of skill, or a game of chance. Since users are paying for each prediction they make, via SMS, is it akin to buying a lottery ticket? You may go to a racetrack having researched all the horses in the race, their record and health history, but does that make putting money on the outcome of the race just a game? In our opinion, determining the runs scored off a particular ball involves more luck than skill.

What of Reverse Auctions?

In that context, what about the reverse auction games, including those on TV: If users are being asked to pay Rs. 5-15 via SMS to predict the lowest unique price for a particular product – where is the skill involved in that? It’s all guess work, and the determinate factors in reverse auctions are even fewer than those in case of 6UP or horse racing.

Why This Is Important

It’s a little surprising that the Sports Ministry has picked up this issue of gaming vs gambling, while the Telecom Ministry and the regulator TRAI have been silent. If this does go to the courts, then the outcome will clearly set a precedence for similar “games” via SMS: a verdict in favour of 6UP will be a watershed event for the mobile business.

Related: Do check out our coverage of IPLs Digital Rights