Online Real Money Games: An emerging business in India

The companies operate on a registered subscription-based model and strictly transact in rupees with credit or debit cards.

By PB Jayakumar  
Monday, November 12, 2018

During weekends or holidays, now fun and frolic loving Indians have a new avenue to explore. Real Money Games (RMG), an emerging segment of online gaming industry offering games like rummy, poker, daily fantasy sports and trivia quizzing, is gaining popularity in India.

In less than a decade old gaming industry in India, with over Rs 1000 crore annual turnover, over 100 companies have mushroomed in the RMG sector.

The companies operate on a registered subscription-based model and strictly transact in rupees with credit or debit cards. According to the industry sources, users in this industry are growing at an average 50 per cent a year and revenues of most leading companies are growing at an average 30 per cent every year.

"We had revenues of Rs 105 crore in 2017-18 and our growth was about 30 per cent over the previous year," said Mohit Agarwal, founder and CEO of Adda52.com, India's largest online poker platform. The firm was started in 2012 with funding from HNIs, family and friends and in 2016, was acquired by Delta Corp for about Rs 220 crore. The stock exchange listed Delta Corp is India's largest gaming company owning casinos in Goa and a hotel in Daman.  

Industry sources say about 4-5 companies control 85-90 per cent of the RMG market in India. These includes companies like Dream1, which offers real fantasy cricket and football games online. Rummy card playing sites like RummyCircle and Ace2Three are among the leading companies, besides the poker specialist Adda52. Most of these companies act like online aggregators, helping people play on their platform, for a fixed user fee for different time packages.

As reported by Business Today, news, social media and gaming apps are the top three categories installed by the Indian mobile users, according to a recent studyby MoMAGIC Technologies, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big data driven mobile tech firm. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 94 per cent jump in installations of news-related apps, followed by an 80 per cent increase in social media-related apps and gaming apps at 52 per cent, the study had said.

Recently Anuj Gupta and Mohit Agarwal, founders of Adda52.com, had seed-funded iChamp, India's first live and real-time gaming edutech platform aimed at improving understanding of concepts of mathematics by games, quizzes and activities besides continuous practice.

At present though there are no clear cut gaming guidelines and rules to regulate the online gaming sector, licenses are issued by most states in accordance to the rules on 'Games of Skill" under the Public Gaming Act. At present Nagaland is the only state that has put in place exclusive licensing norms for online games. The industry is establishing an ethics based self-regulation mechanism initiated by the All India Gaming Federation, the apex industry body for policy advocacy and regulation for online gaming in India.

Sources say now RMG companies are experimenting new games for sports and fun lovers in India like bridge, billiards, pool, car racing and other fantasy games.

While the initial investments are mainly for hosting the online platform and related software infrastructure in place, major chunk of the expenses are for marketing and incentivising to retain customers with attractive offers. Dream 11, which first signed commentator Harsha Bhogle as their brand ambassador in 2017, now has cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni as brand ambassador. A couple of weeks ago, Adda52 roped in West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle as its brand ambassador.

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