Watching cricket and playing rummy are online passions for hundreds of millions of Indians, fueling a nascent gaming industry on the verge of quadrupling its revenue. That’s attracting attention from some of Asia’s biggest internet companies.
Tencent Holdings Ltd., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and SoftBank Group Corp. are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Indian apps that use loopholes in anti-gambling laws -- some dating to India’s colonial era -- to offer bettors cash prizes, vacations to Macau and new iPhones.
About 300 million players use apps such as Dream11, Play Games24x7, Paytm First Games and FanFight to gamble on “fantasy cricket” and rummy card games -- a player base expected to at least double by year’s end. Industry sales are forecast to reach about $3.3 billion by 2024, prompting India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, to say the business eventually will surpass that of music, movies and TV shows combined ($12 billion).
Alibaba’s lottery subsidiary AGTech Holdings Ltd. and SoftBank digital payments subsidiary Paytm jointly back Paytm First Games, an app offering 200-plus games, including Fantasy Cricket, rummy and poker.
The app, unveiled in 2017 as Gamepind, has raised more than $35 million from investors, Chief Operating Officer Sudhanshu Gupta said. Gambling makes up more than 40% of all revenue earned by games, he said.