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Another challenge filed against Dream11 in Supreme Court: Report

A special leave petition in the Supreme Court filed last week has challenged a Rajasthan High Court order that upheld the legality of Dream11 and declared that Rajasthan government was not violating any laws by allowing the company to operate. The petitioner’s counsel has confirmed the development, and a hearing will likely take place soon. This was first reported by Outlook.

The petition in the Rajasthan High Court had said that Dream11 amounts to gambling and asked for directions that Dream11’s operations be stopped. The case was dismissed on the following grounds:

  1. The Punjab & Haryana High Court had upheld that Dream11 reasoned that games of “mere skill” do not fall within gambling and betting, and that success in Dream11 comes from a “user’s superior knowledge, judgment, and attention”. It dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court also struck down an appeal to this judgment.
  2. The Bombay High Court, in a criminal PIL, had upheld Dream11’s legality in April 2019. The court had repeated that success in Dream 11 “depends upon user’s exercise of skill based on superior knowledge, judgment and attention” and that winning or losing does not depend on a real world game. “It is undoubtedly a game of skill andnot a game of chance,” the court had said. The Supreme had also struck down a challenge to this judgment.

The petitioner, financial consultant Avinash Mehrotra, now wants the petition to be examined in depth, and seeks clarity on regulations governing fantasy sports. Mehrotra has previously challenged online gambling and betting websites in the Delhi High Court, a case that was disposed in November last year.

Dream 11 replaced Chinese smartphone maker Vivo as the title sponsor for IPL 2020, after concerns were raised about Vivo, in wake of ongoing Indo-China tensions. Chinese internet giant Tencent is among Dream11’s investors.

The Andhra Pradesh government last week made online gambling illegal in the state. While the government will not proactively block apps offering gambling, it will amend the AP Gaming Act, 1974, to allow it to prosecute those caught playing the games.

It’s worth noting that Andhra Pradesh has explicitly left fantasy gaming out of the purview of the new restrictions. Gambling is a state subject, and states are free to govern them as they wish. Except for a handul of states, most have based their own laws on the Public Gambling Act, 1867. Under it, gambling regulation, whether offline and online, depends on whether a game is one of skill or chance.

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Sikkim was one of the first states to enact a law allowing regulated online gambling for games such as poker, rummy, blackjack, roulette and backgammon in 2008. Nagaland legalised online gambling, albeit only “games of skills”, in 2015. Games of skill include, according to the Nagaland government’s definition, both rummy and poker, as well as chess, quizzes, and even virtual racing games. On the flip side, Telangana in 2017 expanded its Telangana Gaming Act, 1974 which continues to prohibit online gambling, while explicitly defining rummy as not a game of skill.

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