Is NRB Aware of it?
If you are a fan of Fantasy Premier League or in any way, a part of it, you might be familiar with how it works. It has a large pool of fans who form a group together and bet against the games that happen in real.
The Evolution of Gambling: From Cards and Horse Races to Fantasy Premier League
Any act recognized as gambling or betting has been considered illegal by the law. The acts of gambling are found in playing cards, betting against the games etc. in Nepal.
With time, the act of gambling has transformed in digital forms, through screens. However, the base of it remains the same- people register or pay a particular sum of money to enter the game and bet against the team or a player.
Since playing cards is only allowed with the family and friends during our festivals like Dashain, Tihar, the seasonal gamblers always have been seeking for a chance to find a way to gamble. And the authorities like Nepal Police goes through a lot of patrolling to control this illegal act.
For instance, a year before, Nepal Police arrested many people from various clubs and restaurants during the Euro-Cup. Although it is considered illegal by the Nepali law, most betting games took place during that time in the restaurants and clubs.
Though gambling with playing cards is still prevalent in various places in Nepal, another form of digital gambling is an open secret to the authorities- the most popular one being Fantasy Premier League.
The business of Fantasy Premier League- How does it work?
Fantasy sports competitions allow participants bet against one another while employing made-up teams. These fictional teams are set up in online leagues and are made up of real atheletes who are regarded as “playing” for them.
By using predetermined score systems linked to the statistical performance of the athletes in actual sporting events, outcomes are decided.
Online gaming is the norm for fantasy sports. Computers have simplified the process of generating scores from such data, enabling seemingly instantaneous access to statistics, measurements, and data on specific games and players.
With these technological advancements, fantasy sports participation in the Nepal has skyrocketed. It is even more popular in the USA and European countries.
Apparently, the students there have been involved in such betting games in a hope to win money so as to clear their student loans. Particularly, thousands have embraced the fantasy football craze.
Fantasy Premier League first originated from Italy and it spread to other European countries. Gradually, it gained a wide popularity in other countries too since people did not need to travel to the clubs or restaurants to bet on the team or a player.
This made it easier and attractive to earn easy money. There are 253 country leagues altogether under Fantasy Premier League, and Nepal is not an exception.
This culture also has also grown under Nepali youths- thus giving a space for it to thrive.
Is Fantasy Premier League Legal? Why are digital wallets like Khalti and Namaste Pay Promoting it?
Section 125 of the National Penal Act 2017, prohibits the act of gambling and betting in Nepal.
Quoting the sub-section 5 under this act, it is clearly stated that:
“A person who so bets that he or she will receive or lose any movable, immovable property or consideration if any particular party wins or loses any game or process that can be played, or caused to be played, under law shall be considered to have committed the offense of betting.“
In this regard, betting or participating in betting under Fantasy Premier League is unofficially an illegal act, that might put you into a legal trouble.
There are a handful of popular groups in Facebook running with more than 10,000 members in each groups. They have been openly running these groups, with the team leaders selected time and again.
If you search in Facebook, you can find various groups of similar names like:
- Fantasy Premier League Nepal
- Fantasy Premier League: FPL Discussion
- Fantasy Premier League Fanatics, and so on
Among them, Fantasy Premier League Nepal is the main operator of these betting schemes under Fantasy League in Nepal.
Every week, they choose the “Manager of the Week” and award that person with a hefty cash prize starting from Rs 1000 to even Rs 100,000.
Every season, there are more than 100 of winners, getting thousands of cash prizes. The question arises, where is this money coming from?
The answer is obvious, it comes from the money of other registrants or through sponsorship. Since they charge you Rs 100 for registration, the game goes like this.
A large pool of people send registration money through the online payments systems like this under the team managers. And then, the team manager manages the money and team. Also, they keep record of who bets against whom and then announce the names.
This might feel like a Ponzi scheme, where the money comes from nowhere other than new registrations.
Surely, this gives some sort of rewards to the participants while they keep involving in such betting games. That’s why a lot of youths are involved in this act online.
And this has made it difficult to the authorities to track the gamblers.
Previously, many Nepalis used to gamble through the websites like 1XBet. After NRB’s official warning to punish those involved in these bettings or trading of virtual currencies through Jocial, Hyper Funds, Solemaz Global, Crowd 1 etc, these activities are not much heard of.
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However, the Fantasy Premier League is creating a buzz even in the legitimate sites these days.
To name it in particular, the NRB licensed digital wallet Khalti is itself promoting this in the collaboration with the popular entertainment group- Meme Nepal.
As you can see here, Khalti is openly promoting Fantasy Premier League where it is attracting its users to register through it and play Fantasy Premier League-which is unofficially ILLEGAL in Nepal by law.
The user has to register with their team name and manager’s name. After that, they need to pay a registration fee of Rs 100, which they have advertised that they can get a cash back up to 100%.
This way, the money you pay through Khalti to register in Fantasy Premier League, can only be used in Khalti after cash back. What do you feel about that?
Should you not have the freedom to get that amount back as bank-transferable? Or does Khalti intentionally want that money to be in your Khalti account which earns it transaction fees every time you make any transaction through Khalti with that amount?
To name further, it is an irony that even the government backed payment system Namaste Pay is following the suit. It has also promoted about Fantasy Premier League through its Facebook page.
Being an entity promoted by the public enterprise like Nepal Telecom, and the government bank Rastriya Banijya Bank, is it legitimate for Namaste Pay to advertise about the activity prohibited by law through its marketplace?
Though it is happening right under the nose of the regulator Nepal Rastra Bank, why is it not saying even a word on this? And is it legitimate for the licensed digital wallet companies to promote such (illegal) schemes like Fantasy Premier League through its platform? Should NRB take any action regarding this or should it be left as it is? Feel free to share your feedback on this.