Google Play To Run Year-Long Pilot Programme Of Real-Money Fantasy Sports, Rummy In India

The pilot programme will run from Sept. 28, 2022 through Sept. 28, 2023.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Vasisth Roy playing Dream11’s Secret Superstar online fantasy game. (Source: Vasisth Roy)</p></div>
Vasisth Roy playing Dream11’s Secret Superstar online fantasy game. (Source: Vasisth Roy)

Google Play will run a year-long pilot programme of daily fantasy sports and rummy apps for users in India.

The pilot is meant for developers incorporated in India to build apps for users in India only, and will run from Sept. 28, 2022 through Sept. 28, 2023, according to the search engine’s blog.

Google, however, will accept only new apps. “You must not repurpose an existing app to a daily fantasy sport or rummy app and must make available a new app for the user to install,” it said. The apps will also not use Google’s in-app billing or be available as a paid app.

The app will comply with Google’s global gambling policy that does not allow the app to “contain functionality that allows end users to access other real-money gaming products or services owned or operated by third parties”, the blog said.

The move is a marked shift in Google’s stance towards fantasy gaming apps in India. In India, the sector has seen three unicorns—Dream11, Games24x7, which operates RummyCircle and My11Circle; and Mobile Premier League. All these apps are popular in India and claim 8.5-13 crore users on each of their platforms.

But given Google’s policies on gambling, these apps are not available on the Play Store and users have to use specialised links to download the apps on their devices.

“We are constantly exploring ways for local developers to build successful businesses and offer delightful experiences on Google Play. Through this pilot programme, we are taking a measured approach that will help us collate learnings and retain an enjoyable and safe experience for our users,” a Google spokesperson told BQ Prime.

According to Saumya Singh Rathore, co-founder of WinZO—a social gaming platform with 7 crore users—Google's change in stance is welcome, but the exclusion of real-money skill games, except rummy and fantasy, is discriminatory.

Rathore cites the precedent set by the Supreme Court where it held that success in such games depends upon a substantial degree of skill. "So, players’ knowledge, training, attention, and experience determine their success in such games. It is unreasonable for Google to only allow rummy and fantasy games while foreclosing the door for all other skill-based games that cumulatively form a bigger user base of over 500 million monthly users in India."

From a commercial standpoint, this decision could give a boost to apps that are permitted versus those that aren’t—to the extent of 70-75%, she said. Terming it an example of "arbitrary platform policies and misuse of dominance", Rathore said that it could result in long-term distortion in favour of entrenched players and discourage innovation.