Dan Bilzerian associates with fantasy gaming platform Livepools

Prediction-based real money fantasy gaming website Livepools announced its association with Instagram celebrity and high stakes poker player Dan Bilzerian at an event in Mumbai last week.

Gaurav Assomull, the founder of Livepools announced that Bilzerian and his group had associated themselves with the fantasy gaming platform as investors, but refused to give further details on the investment size or equity that Bilzerian will be holding.

Launched in February 2018, Livepools, which is a skill-based prediction-based sports gaming website claims to have over one million registered users and a more than 400% year-on-year growth rate. The brand earlier had cricketer Yuvraj Singh as an ambassador.

Founded by entrepreneurs, Gaurav and Vickram Assomull, the company had earlier raised around Rs. 5 crores as angel funding from HNIs in Singapore and counts having Dino Morea as an investor. Assomull had earlier stated that the company was looking to raise around US$3-5 million in a Series A funding round.

As reported last week, Bilzerian had come down to India to launch his male grooming brand Alister and also attend the India Poker Championship (IPC) tournament at the Big Daddy casino in Goa. Bilzerian reportedly also played some high stakes poker games at the casino, on the sidelines of the IPC event.


Nazara invests in Sportskeeda and Qunami, ups stake in Halaplay

Online game publisher Nazara Technologies Limited is reportedly on the verge of closing a Rs. 36 crore deal to gain majority stake in Absolute Sports Private Limited, the parent company of leading online sports content and news website Sportskeeda.

According to an exclusive report on online news portal Inc42, Nazara is proposing to acquire 118,000 equity shares of Absolute Sports in a cash plus stock deal.

For the acquisition, Nazara is paying an issue price of Rs. 10 to purchase shares from existing investors, promoters and key managerial personnel and is additionally also offering the existing shareholders of the company a total of 491,100 shares of Nazara Technologies at a premium of Rs. 724 per share. 

According to the Inc42 report, Nazara is further planning to purchase equity shares worth Rs. 7.09 crores in Sports Unity Private Limited, the company that operates the real money quiz app Qunami.

The deal is proposed to be an all stock deal with Nazara allotting 34,900 shares to non banking financial company, Azimuth Investments, which had given a Rs. 6.25 crore loan to Sports Unity, apparently to convert Sports Unity’s debt into equity.

According to the regulatory filings to the Registrar of Companies (ROC) cited by Inc42, Nazara is also looking to increase its stake in fantasy sports HalaPlay to 52.53% by acquiring Kae Capital and Kalysta Capital Fund’s stake in the company in a share swap deal.

In exchange of Kae Capital and Kalysta Fund’s 26,080 shares in Halaplay, they are being offered 315,900 shares of Nazara Technologies, which will take their combined holding in the gaming publisher to 1.14%.

Earlier this year, Nazara had participated in a Rs. 40 crore Series A investment round in Halaplay, along with gaming and hospitality company Delta Corp. Delta Corp had also divested its fantasy sports portal LeagueAdda and transferred it to Halaplay as part of the deal.

In the past couple of years, Nazara has aggressively invested in real money as well as social gaming startups including CrimzonCode, Kenyan real-money betting company NZ World Kenya Ltd, NextWave Multimedia, MasterMind Sports, Truly Social, NODWIN Gaming and Moong Labs.

Nazara has also indicated its interest in either starting or acquiring online poker, rummy and other real money skill games in India.

Legal & Regulatory

Bombay HC rules fantasy sports to be a game of skill, approves Dream11’s format and manner of payment of GST

A division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising of Justices Bharati H. Dangre and Ranjit More in a recent Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by one Gurdeep Singh Sachar, ruled that the daily fantasy sports games offered by Dream11 depends upon the user’s skill and judgment and is undoubtedly a game of skill.

The PIL was filed by Sachar, a Mumbai-based resident, who claimed that fantasy games are luring people to play games of chance through their hard earned money and are amount to different forms of gambling.

Sachar further contended that Dream11 was allegedly evading Goods & Services Tax (GST) by violating Rule 31A of the Central GST Rules and not paying 28% GST on the total value of deposits.

The court in its judgment dated 30th April, 2019 rejected both the contentions made by Singh.

In its order in Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India & Others, Justice Ranjit More, speaking on behalf of the bench noted that the Punjab and Haryana High Court in its 2017 order of Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh has already held, after detailed examination, that activities conducted by Dream11 do not amount to gambling.

The court also referred to the fact that Gumber filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which was dismissed.

The order further mentions that the Supreme Court order of Dr. KR Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu & Another, which held that games involving a substantial degree of skill fall outside the definition of gaming and gambling, has been relied upon by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in its 2017 order.

The Bombay High Court subsequently notes that the view it has taken is not different from the reasoning of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The court observed:

There is no merit in the submission that the result of their fantasy game/contest shall be considered as merely by chance or accident notwithstanding involvement of substantial skill. The petitioner claims that the result would depend largely on extraneous factors such as, who amongst the players actually play better in the real game on a particular day, which according to the petitioner would be a matter of chance, howsoever skillful a participant player in the online fantasy game may be. The petitioner has lost sight of the fact that the result of the fantasy game contest on the platform of respondent No.3, is not at all dependent on winning or losing of any particular team in the real world game. Thus, no betting or gambling is involved in their fantasy games. Their result is not dependent upon winning or losing of any particular team in real world on any given day.

On the issue of alleged GST evasion, the court noted that Rule31A of the Central GST rules applied only to ‘gambling’ or ‘betting’ services, where 28% GST is payable on the face value of the bets.

The court referred to Schedule III of the Central Goods and Services Act, 2017 which states that ‘actionable claims, other than lottery, gambling and betting’ are excluded from the scope of supply.

The court reasoned that the amounts pooled by the players for entering a contest in the escrow account of the company is an actionable claim that is to be distributed to the winning players and consequently can neither be considered as supply of goods or supply or services and is thus excluded from the definition of supply.

On the issue of rate at which the GST has to be charged, the court noted that under entry code 998439 (other online content n.e.c.), explanatory notes suggest that role-playing games, strategy games, action games, card games and children’s games etc. are covered under this category, which would also cover Dream11’s format and fantasy sports gaming, for which 18% GST is applicable.

The court in its concluding remarks while dismissing Sachar’s PIL observed:

It is seen that the entire case of the Petitioner is wholly untenable, misconceived and without any merit. It can be seen that success in Dream11’s fantasy sports depends upon user’s exercise of skill based on superior knowledge, judgment and attention, and the result thereof is not dependent on the winning or losing of a particular team in the real world game on any particular day. It is undoubtedly a game of skill and not a game of chance. The attempt to reopen the issues decided by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in respect of the same online gaming activities, which are backed by a judgment of the three judges bench of the Apex Court in K. R. Lakshmanan (supra), that too, after dismissal of SLP by the Apex Court is wholly misconceived.

Read more about betting and gambling laws in India.


Paytm-backed Gamepind rebrands itself as FirstGames, looks to raise $30 million

Paytm-backed real money gaming platform Gamepind has decided to rebrand itself to FirstGames, as per a report in the Economic Times.

Gamepind, which is a joint venture between Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications Limited and Alibaba Group owned gaming technology provider AGTech Holdings, is also reportedly looking to raise further capital of US$30 million to expand its gaming platform and scale it with more games.

One97 Communications and AGTech had infused US$16 million in Gamepind Entertainment Private Limited last year.

Gamepind (now Paytm FirstGames) has claimed that in a short span of less than one year, it has garnered over 30 million registered users on its platform.

The company offers casual games such as ludo, snake wars, badlands, 8 bnall pool as well as skill games such as rummy, fantasy sports, trivia and live quiz on its platform as well as on the Paytm website and mobile app.

Gamepind is reportedly currently clocking Gross Merchandise Volume of Rs. 20 crore monthly, which it hopes to increase to Rs. 28-35 crores during the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup.

Read more about Gaming business in India.


Yuvraj Singh joins BalleBaazi as brand ambassador

Days after announcing bidding an emotional adieu to competitive cricket, legendary cricketer Yuvraj Singh has announced that he would be endorsing fantasy sports website BalleBaazi.

Commenting on his new assignment, Singh remarked that he is starting his ‘second innings’ as a captain on BalleBaazi and in a press release stated, “I am delighted to be associated with, the ultimate cricket fantasy league. I will interact with my fans on a personal level while competing with them as we select teams comprising of our favourite players. This is the best platform for passionate cricket fans to test their skills and knowledge related to the game.”

Expressing his delight on having the legendary cricketer on board, Navkiran Singh, founder and CEO of Baazi Games noted, “Yuvraj Singh is the perfect representative for It was his strength, determination, and perseverance that helped him and team India lift the world cup; but beyond the field, his battle against a life-threatening disease inspired billions including me. Since the first time I saw him against Australia in Nairobi, he’s been my cricketing hero. Yuvraj Singh defines the word ‘Champion’, we welcome him on board and look forward to this fruitful collaboration.”

“It’s a matter of immense pride to have Yuvraj in the Baazi family. The world knows how Yuvraj brought a paradigm shift in the Indian cricket scene with his ‘Never Give Up’ attitude for his country. We, at, boast of similar traits in our core values. We look forward to a long and productive association with Yuvi”, added Saurabh Chopra, Co-Founder and CEO,

BalleBaazi, is a year old fantasy sports website that is part of the Baazi Games Group. Apart from fantasy sports, Baazi Games offers online poker through its website PokerBaazi and recently started its rummy brand, RummyBaazi.

Read more about gaming and online betting in India.


Kapil Dev launches new fantasy sports website Apne11

Former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev launched a new daily fantasy sports portal ‘Apne11’ at a ceremony held at The Lalit Hotel in New Delhi yesterday.

The new fantasy sports portal, which has Dev as its brand ambassador has announced an introductory offer of 100% user bonus on new deposits made by customers. The company has also announced a special ‘Kapil League’ wherein the highest scorer on Kapil’s leaderboard stands a chance to win Rs. 25 lakhs and the top 5 winners get a meet and greet opportunity with the legendary cricketer.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Dev said, “I am thrilled to be associated with Apne11 as it will present an open opportunity for millions to compete against one another and have the chance to connect with sports on an even deeper level than before.”

Commenting on the launch, Akshay Jaggi, CEO of Apne11 noted, “The aim of Apne11 is to be the number one platform with the best experience ever. We are a customer oriented company and for us was a natural decision to launch our innovative site in this market. Our team is doing our best to become the first choice in the hearts of the fantasy players.”

Ratul Sethi, founder of Apne11 added, “The gaming industry is undergoing a revolution and with one of the world’s largest youth population, India is poised to become one of the world’s leading markets in the gaming sector. Taking forward the same vision we want to make daily fantasy sports game experience simpler and reach tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Our endeavor is to unite India in coming together to celebrate sports in the country.”

Read more about online gaming and betting in India.


India Today Group launches new fantasy sports website Aaj Tak 11

One of India’s biggest print and electronic media networks in the country, the India Today Group, announced (watch video below from Sports Tak) that it had launched a fantasy sports portal ‘Aaj Tak 11’ at the Salaam Cricket 2019 summit held at the Lord’s Cricket ground in London yesterday.

The fantasy cricket portal was launched by former Australian cricketer Shane Warne, former Indian cricket captain Sunil Gavaskar and Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the India Today Group, Aroon Purie.

According to the website, the portal currently offers only free-to-play fantasy cricket games that allows users to win real money cash prizes. It has however been indicated, that real money contests will also be offered by the platform in the near future.

The Aaj Tak 11 platform is provided by the Corporate Fantasy League, a fantasy sports solutions provider operated by Delhi-based Experience Global Mobile Technologies Private Limited.

India Today is the second major media conglomerate to start their own fantasy sports product. A few months ago, Times Internet Limited, a subsidiary of the Times of India Group had also started a free-to-play fantasy sports and prediction portal, CricPlay, which is endorsed by former Indian cricketer and East Delhi Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP), Gautam Gambhir.

Read more about gaming and online gambling in India.


Former cricket journalist starts new digital gaming portal Altletics

Nikhil Kalro, a former cricket journalist with ESPNcricinfo has started a new digital gaming and sports content company called Altletics Esports Private Limited.

The Bengaluru-based company has announced the launch of its web-based daily fantasy sports portal ‘Altletics’ (the name being derived from the word ‘Alternative Athletics’) ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

According to Kalro, Altletics is seeking to encourage more participation from users who prefer to play the free version of the game. The company is also trying to focus on having leagues with smaller number of contest entries (contests with entry sizes of 2, 3 and 5) with much smaller entry fees compared to other fantasy sports portal.

Kalro claims that the company is keen to focus on making the customer experience better and smoother with small and simple initiatives like greater cash bonuses and smaller number of entries, which increases the winning probability for users.

The bootstrapped company currently offers only cricket fantasy games on its web-based portal, but it plans to come out with the iOS and Android versions of its mobile app soon, with contests of other sports also likely to be added.

Altletics has also announced that it will be also foraying in the esports space soon. Besides fantasy sports, the company also operates a sports content and news website called Broken Cricket.

Read more about online betting and gaming in India.


Sourav Ganguly endorses fantasy sports website My11Circle

Former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly has joined online fantasy gaming website My11Circle as its brand ambassador, as per an announcement made by the company.

Promoted by PlayGames 24×7 Pvt. Ltd. (which operates one of the largest online rummy websites RummyCircle and social gaming portal Ultimate Games), My11Circle is one of the recent entrants in the already competitive fantasy sports market.

Commenting on the development, Ganguly noted in a press release, “I am very excited to be part of this fun game, especially because it is about cricket. Makes me feel involved in the game. I think the players on My11Circle will also enjoy the game thoroughly. Waiting for lots of action and lots of fun with players from all over the country,”

Avik Das Kanungo, Brand Head of Play Games24x7 said: “We are very lucky to have Sourav as part of the My11Circle family. This game is about cricketing knowledge, passion and decision making. The app is looking at scaling up their presence with Sourav Ganguly who took Indian cricket to new heights. Every player on our app is like a cricket captain and picks his / her own cricket team and everyone knows that Sourav is the best when it comes to this. I am confident that our players will also look forward to this exciting journey with Sourav on My11Circle.”

Saroj Panigrahi, Business Head My11Circle, said, “As a game of skill, My11Circle connects the cricket fan with a platform where they can exhibit their knowledge and expertise of the game. It is an opportunity for them to become a champion. Our campaign with Sourav Ganguly is true to our brand’s belief of not just celebrating the success of the matches but also about the fans, who together make cricket such an awesome game”.

Ganguly joins other former and current cricketing legends such as MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, VVS Laxman, Jonty Rhodes and Hardik Pandya in endorsing fantasy sports websites.

Launched in January this year, My11Circle states that it intends to change fantasy gaming experience for players by having various features such as live scores and updates and faster cash rewards.

Read more about online gambling and betting in India.


MPL acquires machine learning company Crevise Technologies in cash+stock deal

Online skill gaming and esports platform Mobile Premier League (MPL) has announced that it has acquired Pune-based product engineering consultancy firm Crevise Technologies in a cash and stock deal.

Founded in 2016 by Mukta Aphale and Atul Aphale,  Crevise Technologies is focused on providing end-to-end product engineering consultations. The startup has expertise in DevOps, Machine Learning, and Full Stack Development.

The company has stated that it aims to utilise Crevise’s experience in DevOps and reliability engineering to make its platform more robust, agile, and reliable for its users. Post this acquisition, founders of Crevise Technologies will lead the 10-member MPL team from Pune.

The gaming platform also added in a statement that it had earlier collaborated with Crevise Technologies with the objective of improving performance and operational efficiency of its platform.

Speaking on the acquisition, Shubham Malhotra, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of MPL said, “As a fast-moving company, we are in a continuous deployment mode. We needed a strong team of DevOps engineers to move the delivery capacity up swiftly. Before deciding to bring Crevise Technologies onboard as a part of the MPL team we had a great stint working with them as a client partner. While working with them, we also noticed synergies in work ethics, team values, and cultural fitment, that led us to move towards this acquisition. The team brings their rich end-to-end product engineering capabilities to the table and we are excited to build MPL together.”

Founded only 10 months ago, MPL has been aggressively increasing its presence in the online gaming space in India. The company recently announced that it had expanded its platform into South-East Asia with the launch of MPL Indonesia.

Few weeks ago, MPL closed a US$35.5 million Series A funding round led by Sequoia Capital, Times Internet and Indonesian transportation company Go-Jek’s investment arm, GoVentures. The company has Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and cricketer KL Rahul as its brand ambassadors and has more than 25 million registered users on its platform.