The youngest country in the world is prospering with the underbelly turning comfort-seeking and cribby, away from culture and spirituality. Marketers, event management wizards and brands are encashing this sloth by putting up one of the greatest shows on earth. As the 16 edition of The Indian Premier League (IPL) is underway with 10 teams jostling to win the title, a parallel phenomenon is taking shape slowly yet subtly in the nook and corner of India.
Today IPL is one of the biggest and richest domestic sporting tournaments in the world watched by 274 million viewers (a jump of a whopping 115 per cent in 2023 IPL over the previous year) positioning it as the second-most valuable sport league in the world, after the American National Football League (NFL), surpassing the English Premier League (EPL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and National Basketball Association league (NBA).
Each IPL match’s broadcast value is USD 13.4 million (Rs 109.89 crores). This is more than the value per match of the English Premier League, which stands at $11 million, the American baseball league MLB which stands at $11 million, and the NBA, which has a per-match broadcast value of $9 million.
According to the India Fantasy Report 2030, 50 per cent of the user base is and will continue to come from people between the age of 25 to 40, while 40 per cent of users are of age less than 25 years
This augurs well with a shortening human attention span, short cricket format, bouncy pitch, music, fanfare, Bollywood actresses, business families, and aspirational India dreaming and joining the bandwagon of luxury and luxurious lifestyle.
Over the years as IPL jumped multifold, so did a new portent. A New World of Fantasy Gaming Piggy rode the success of IPL. This new marvel, which is both harmful and addictive (the promotional advertisements of Fantasy Gaming say in the disclaimer) caught on to its clients quickly.
Just in a decade, as of Dec 2022, the Fantasy Gaming or Betting Users in India reached a Rs 51 crores mark as per Research Firm Statista and are expected to grow to over a billion users in the next 7 to 7.5 years.
Presently, the size of the Indian Fantasy gaming market is 29 billion USD and is expected to reach 72+ billion USD mark by 2030 (Rs 2.5 times in Seven years) with Cricket and football leading the way.
According to the India Fantasy Report 2030, 50 per cent of the user base is and will continue to come from people between the age of 25 to 40, the dominant years of shaping one’s life and career, while 40 per cent of users are of age less than 25 years. It is believed that North India will lead the growth of fantasy gaming.
Before one proceeds further to Fantasy Gaming and the spectacular success it has delivered and continues to deliver, let’s understand what it is.
There are three concepts
- Online Gaming – These are video games played online either solo or with a group of friends. These can be in a story, stage, or level format. Online games can be played on PCs, laptops and mobile phones or from dedicated video game consoles such as PlayStations, Xboxes, Nintendo Switches etc. There is no monetary consideration. Success or failure gives a kick or dejection and over-usage can lead to addiction or depression.
- Online Betting – It is simply online gambling and includes virtual poker, casinos, sports betting, etc. Under this, there is a probability of winning or losing by a random act of luck or by chance. Betting or Gambling is prohibited under the Public Gambling Act, of 1867, which does not mention anything about Online Betting as it was passed a century before the internet was conceived. Thus, online betting technically is not legal or illegal.
- Fantasy Gaming – This is an online game of skill whereby the bettor assembles a virtual team that accumulates points based on statistics
specific to the sport.
Let’s understand using an example
There is an online fantasy sports company ABCD11. It initiates an online game of cricket based on IPL 2023. (This can be replicated across any game, any sport, and any tournament that’s been played live). To participate in the game, one (let’s call him a gamer) has to pay an entry fee of, let’s say Rs 49.
The gamer chooses to bet, on the basis of the game played between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Delhi Capitals (DC). Now the gamer has the option of choosing any 11 players out of 22 who would be playing that day.
The gamer then decides who will be the captain and vice-captain. The weightage of runs scored by the captain and vice–captain is higher, let’s say, Captain Score gets 2X points and Vice-CaptainScores gets 1.5 X points.
The modus operandi
When the real IPL game is played, the performance of the individual players, who played in the IPL match between CSK Vs DC, is used to ascertain the score of the gamer’s team. Gamer plays against all other participants who have participated in the specific bet. If the Gamer wins, he gets the prize money, and if loses, he loses his entry fee.
The Business Model
The Fantasy Betting or gaming company makes money by taking a cut from the betting pool received. Let’s go back to the same example. ABCD 11 for the CSK Vs DC match bet gets entries from 1 crores people with an entry fee of Rs 49. Thus the company collects Rs 49 crores. It decides to give Rs 10 crores to the winning gamer (the top team of the bet) and Rs 7.5 crores to the next gamer, Rs 5 crores to the gamer after that and distributes another Rs 19 crores to 19 lakhs people depending on their scores.
Thus after distributing Rs 41.5 crores in totality against a collection of Rs 49 crores, ABCD 11 takes away Rs 7.5 crores or 15 per cent of the betting pool (The betting company or some call it a platform takes a cut of 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the total betting Pool), thereby making money each time, irrespective whether individual bettor wins or loses.
IPL and Fantasy Gaming
Fantasy Gaming is based on IPL matches and thus more matches mean more Fantasy Gaming activity. Similarly, after betting, individuals watch the match of IPL to see how their picked-up individual players are performing in the real match as that will determine the Fantasy Gaming player’s outcome and thereby increase the viewership for IPL, in turn, the ad revenue and cost per second of an ad.
The fortunes of the Fantasy Betting companies are also rising with the rise in IPL with estimated revenues for 2023 for Fantasy Gaming companies to be projected at Rs 3,100 crores as compared to Rs 990 crores in 2019. The reach is so deep that 50 per cent of the Fantasy betting revenues are coming from Tier 2 cities and 30 per cent from tier-three or smaller cities of India.
The Tormentous Trap
More and more youth in the country are getting trapped in Fantasy Gaming due to three reasons.
- Delusional Hope – When one pays a meagre cost of Rs 49 to play the Fantasy bet, one hopes to win Rs 10 crores and thus the gamer in constant hope of winning keeps playing without thinking of a small loss. Furthermore, an amount of Rs 49 is affordable and thus induces any and every person to try luck at least once. As one enters the system, one gets entrapped in it.
- No Easy Exit – In the previous example, 19 lakhs people won Rs 100 by betting Rs 49, a very good return in percentage terms. However, if one wishes to exit with the money, the company ABCD 11 prevents the exit, keeping a condition that until one has won a minimum of Rs 200 or Rs 250, one can’t encash the gains, thus prompting the gamer to bet again, bigger and higher.
3. Sunk Cost Deception – In India, everyone has a view on politics, on weather and on cricket and how one should have played in a particular match. As the selection of the team is done by the individual, one invests a lot of one’s personal time in studying the statistics and data behind each player, the player’s track record, how the player has fared against the current opponent in the past etc. As one reads and studies more, one starts believing one is getting proficient and emerging as an expert and one’s chances of winning the mega lottery of Rs 10 crores are high.
After the game is played and the outcome is declared, either the gamer wins or loses. If the gamer wins, the gamer believes that he has cracked the code and continues to bet even more by investing more time in viewing the IPL matches. If the person loses, the person believes that he has missed some finer points and invigorates his journey of research and study and invests more time in analyzing the players’ data, and then watching the match.
This is the Sunk Cost Fallacy where one keeps investing further in hope that one day one will recover everything as one has already gone deeper into it with one’s commitment.
A lot of sane and nation-loving people approached courts to ban this addictive and mentally hazardous practice. However, the Supreme Court notified the fantasy sports format is a game of skill and not of chance, thus legitimizing educated betting. It first cajoles and then compels to remain stuck with the system, where the system always wins whether the individual wins or loses. It takes away the focus and alternate possibilities of one to succeed in work, in life, and in business with one’s mind and time both deeply ingrained in Fantasy betting.
Fantasy gaming players also induce individuals with discounts and a free second or a free third chance to play so that one is enticed to first recover first and then win, which never happens. A country as large as India with two-thirds of the population less than 35 years of age focused on a game trying to outwit several others by predicting what can happen is just sheer waste of the future, time and resources. By changing the name from Gambling to Gaming, changing the tactic of betting to fantasy forecasting and stirring the subtle ego of humans, neither Gaming companies nor Bharat can escape from the outcome as it happened in Treta Yuga, where both the arrangers of Dyuta – The Kauravas and players of Dyuta the Pandavas suffered equally.
(Views are personal)