We look at how fantasy gaming helps drives up interest amid a wide sporting spectrum.

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Fantasy gaming has seen a tremendous spurt of interest in India in recent times, aided in no small part by the proliferation of mobile devices and widespread reach of the internet, and this, in turn, is contributing to the development of sport in the nation as well as making a significant contribution to government revenues.

One thing that differentiates fantasy gaming is the seasonal nature of sports that drives up interest during a short window only, whereas conventional gambling is always prevalent and prone to fostering addiction. While the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) has been the most dominant league in terms of fantasy gaming, growing interest has also been nurtured in a broad range of sports such as football, kabaddi and basketball, to name a few.

It has not gone unnoticed, as Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSC) CEO Anwar Shirpurwala observes, "India is a sports-loving nation. Alongside cricket, which remains our most-watched sport, we are witnessing increased viewership of sports like kabaddi and hockey through the advent of shorter format sports leagues like the Indian Premier League (IPL), Indian Super League (ISL), and the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL)."

This broadening of interest in a multitude of erstwhile lower-profile sports is reflected in the fact that online fantasy sports operators reported gross revenues of ₹2,400 crores in the 2020 financial year, a nearly 300 percent growth from the previous year's figures of ₹920 crores, as per a FIFS-KPMG 2020 report.

This, in turn, has led to the collection of ₹166 crores in goods and service tax (GST) for the government. On top of that, online fantasy gaming platforms deduct tax at source (TDS) before paying out the winners, and this TDS was up from ₹93 crores in 2019 to an astounding ₹250 crore by 2020.

And things appear to get only better, as KPMG, who has put the worth of India's online gaming industry at $43.8bn, predicts it to reach as high as $118.8bn by the 2023 financial year.

No doubt, fantasy gaming offers one of the next best alternatives to playing alongside one's sporting heroes, in how their results affect the user's fantasy game outcome. And this hasn't gone unnoticed, as Mobile Premier League growth and marketing VP Abhishek Madhavan puts it, “There will be a lot of new users getting initiated into fantasy sports as a result. This is exactly why we have sponsored two of the top teams in the IPL.

"We expect to see 100 percent growth in the fantasy industry over the next two years, with the market consolidating under the top two-three players."

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Feature image courtesy: AFP / Rui Vieira