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The lines between fantasy sports and sports betting have always been blurry in India, and it seems that PayTM and its fantasy gaming subsidiary PayTM First Games has paid the price. On September 17, both apps were removed from the Google Play Store on accusations of violating the app store’s gambling policies.
In other reports, Dream Sports, the parent company of India’s biggest fantasy gaming portal Dream11, is presently in talks of acquiring another gaming startup, SoStronk.
While fantasy games may be booming in the country, online card games are not having much luck. After the ban on rummy in Andhra Pradesh, BJP MP from Karnataka, K. C Ramamurthy, has demanded banning online rummy in a Rajya Sabha session held on September 15.
Las Vegas-based Park MGM resort is all set to open on September 30; however, the property will re-open as a smokeless casino.
The US state of Virginia witnessed the state’s gaming regulators approve rules and regulations for sports betting.
ESPN has entered into a partnership with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings.
PayTM & PayTM First Games Removed From Google Play Store For Violating Gambling Policies
Payments app PayTM and its online gaming arm, PayTM First Games (PFG), were booted from the Google Play Store on Thursday, September 17. The apps, owned by One97 Communications Ltd, are not visible on being searched on Google Play Store. However, the other apps of the company, namely, Paytm For Business, Paytm Money, Paytm Mall, etc., are still available on the Play Store. This comes after tech giant Google issued a statement on “gambling policies in India.”
Google said that the Play Store prohibits online casinos and other unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting in India. PayTM, which promotes fantasy sports service within its marquee app, repeatedly violated Play Store’s policies, two people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Paytm’s fantasy sports service PFG, which is also available as a standalone app, was also pulled from the Play Store.
Google has apparently removed the PayTM app because it allegedly violated the company’s new rules around online gambling repeatedly. A source within Google said that the Google team that worked with developers reached out to PayTM repeatedly to fix the app’s issues. However, PayTM made repeated violations of the Google policy noted the source.
PayTM vanished from the Google Play Store a few hours after Google’s Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security, and Privacy, detailed the guidelines in a blog post. “We have these policies to protect users from potential harm. When an app violates these policies, we notify the developer of the violation and remove the app from Google Play until the developer brings the app into compliance. And in the case where there are repeated policy violations, we may take more serious action, which may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts. Our policies are applied and enforced on all developers consistently,” she wrote.
“We have the same goals for our gambling policy. We don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting. This includes if an app leads the consumer to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes, it is a violation of our policies,” wrote Frey.
What this means is that Google has apparently removed PayTM from the Play store because it believed the app was violating its new guidelines on online gambling or contests.
A point to be noted here is that the removal of PayTM and PFG comes just one day before the start of the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL). In fact, less than a week ago, the platform had appointed cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar as its brand ambassador.
While existing users can still access the app, PayTM and PFG will not be available for download by new users. Considering that PFG was aiming to get over 100 Million users during the upcoming IPL season, this removal has now become a massive roadblock in those ambitious plans.
The PayTM and PFG apps are still available on the iOS app store.
“The app was blocked for violation of play policies – a clarification of our policy was released earlier today ahead of the IPL tournament,” Google said in an e-mailed response on Friday.
PayTM also issued a statement on Twitter.
Paytm Android app is temporarily unavailable on Google’s Play Store for new downloads or updates. It will be back very soon.
All your money is completely safe, and you can continue to enjoy your Paytm app as normal.
— Paytm (@Paytm) September 18, 2020
Though PayTM claims that it will be back on Google soon, it remains to be seen whether the apps will return in time to capitalize on the company’s plans during the 2020 IPL.
Dream Sports Looking to Acquire Gaming Start-up SoStronk
Dream Sports, the parent company behind fantasy sports behemoth Dream11, is in talks to buy out Indian esports platform SoStronk.
The leading fantasy gaming company had recently raised $225 Million (~₹1,656 Crores) in fresh capital from a group of investors, including the New York-headquartered Tiger Global Management, TPG Tech Adjacencies (TTAD), ChrysCapital, and Footpath Ventures. This gaming giant was also named the first Indian gaming company to enter the Unicorn Club in 2019. In mid-August, Dream11 bagged the title sponsorship for IPL 2020 for ₹222 Crores!
SoStronk is primarily a tech company operating in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Space, best known for producing events similar to FACEIT and ESEA. The company also operates a services arm wherein it works with tournament organizers to augment production, offer server hosting, league operations, and infrastructure needs. SoStronk’s website also revealed that it has been developing a mobile gaming platform, primarily used as a B2B service.
After a successful funding round that saw the gaming giant raise funds from marquee investors, SoStronk is not the only company Dream Sports is in talks to acquire. “The overall budget lined up for all these acquisitions is in the range of $10-15 million,” said a source from the company.
Karnataka MP K. C Ramamurthy Calls For Ban of Online Rummy
BJP Member of Parliament (MP) from Karnataka, K. C Ramamurthy, demanded that the government ban online rummy during a Rajya Sabha session on September 15 stating that many people are getting addicted to the game, especially in South India.
At present, The Rummy Federation has only accredited four rummy operators in the country, namely, Ace2three, Junglee Rummy, Rummy Circle, and Rummy Passion. Quoting a KPMG report, Ramamurthy stated that online real gaming industry in India is worth about ₹2,200 Crores and is growing at the rate of over 30% annually. The market is estimated to reach ₹12000 Crores by 2023.
“I do not see any industry that can grow at this pace in the world. This clearly indicates the rapidity with which online real money gaming, which includes online rummy, is spreading,” Ramamurthy said.
Voicing his opinion that rummy is not a game of skill, Ramamurthy further stated, “It is a misnomer that rummy is a game of skill. It is gambling, and betting money through rummy in the greed of getting more is illegal as it ruins families financially and otherwise. It is unfortunate that many have become addicts, particularly in south India.”
He also alluded that advertisement and endorsement of online rummy by celebrities, including former cricketers like MS Dhoni, is a clear indication that rummy is gaining popularity in India.
“It is unfortunate that many have become addicts. The online rummy is rapidly spreading its tentacles by luring all sections, more particularly youth, with attractive advertisements and promotions assuring lucrative returns, which are totally false,” he said.
Park MGM in Las Vegas Will Re-open as Smokeless Casino
After closing down completely in March, Las Vegas began returning to life in a piecemeal fashion from early June.
On Monday, September 14, MGM Resorts announced that it would be re-opening its Park MGM and NoMad hotels on September 30. This will mark the completion of MGM’s staggered re-opening of its Las Vegas properties since it began the process a few months ago. The company’s Four Seasons Las Vegas hotel re-opens on September 25.
The resort, which has a total of 2,993 rooms and numerous restaurants, including Sin City’s only Eataly, has been shuttered since March when it closed because of concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will be the last of MGM’s properties to come back, but it will also be the first Las Vegas resort that won’t welcome smokers. “Let’s clear the air. Park MGM is smoke-free,” its website announced Monday. The new policy applies to MGM, as well as NoMad.
“It’s something that we’re looking forward to definitely continuing for the long future,” said Anton Nikodemus, who heads the company’s Las Vegas properties. “As we had seen an increasing amount … of guests looking for a nonsmoking alternative … we finally felt now would be the best time to make that decision.”
“While we’ve had it closed, we purchased all new carpet for the casino,” Nikodemus said. “We redid the ceiling lighting and new paint. And [there are] new wall coverings around the entire exterior of the casino. It is a brand-new, fresh casino experience for our customers when they return.”
Virginia Moves to Legalize Sports Betting
Sports fans in Virginia might just be able to place their first legal sporting wagers in early 2021 following the formal approval this week of a regulatory framework for sports betting. The Virginia Lottery Board moved to pass the legislation just in time for the September 15 deadline set by the Virginia General Assembly in its sports betting legislation adopted earlier this year.
“We have received and evaluated several hundred comments and suggestions submitted by citizens, sports betting and casino operators, and most of the major professional sports leagues, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and the Professional Golfers’ Association,” Virginia Lottery executive director Kevin Hall said.
The statute authorizes a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 licenses for internet-only sports betting platforms, with additional preferred consideration provided for applicants partnered with a major league team headquartered or competing extensively in Virginia.
Under the terms of the legislation, betting will be permitted on most major league and college sports, although not on games featuring Virginia college and university teams. Consumers will be able to place wagers on professional sports, certain college sports, other sporting events, and the performance statistics of individual athletes.
ESPN Enters Into Partnership With Caesars Entertainment & DraftKings
On September 14, ESPN announced that it has entered into two separate multi-year agreements with Caesars Entertainment, Inc. and DraftKings Inc.
Both deals include co-exclusive link integrations across ESPN digital platforms connecting fans to sportsbooks from Caesars Entertainment’s sports betting partner, William Hill, and DraftKings. ESPN will also link to odds and daily fantasy information from DraftKings.
ESPN’s vice president Mike Morrison in a press release, said, “With Caesars utilizing odds from William Hill’s sports betting data, we are able to deliver content in new and innovative ways. Our multi-dimensional relationship is a testament to the growth and opportunity in the sports betting space.”
“Our new agreements with Caesars and DraftKings collectively represent the next significant milestone for ESPN to diversify our exposure and deepen our commitment in the sports betting space. We began growing the experience through content, followed by odds utilizing William Hill’s sports betting data and a new state-of-the-art studio facility in Las Vegas through our deal with Caesars, and now with the addition of DraftKings, we are bringing together the sports media leader with two of the top brands and best products in the segment,” Morrison further stated.
“ESPN helped revolutionize the 24/7 sports news cycle and continues to the go-to source for many fans today on the latest and largest sports stories,” said DraftKings CEO Jason Robins in a statement. “We look forward to this collaboration to exclusively showcase DraftKings’ daily fantasy content and offerings while also advancing further visibility and mainstream adoption of our regulated sports betting products.”