Dabur India Chairman Amit Burman’s Poker Sports League (PSL)—one of the biggest poker tournaments in terms of prize pool and participation—wants to build awareness about poker in India which has roughly around 30-40,000 professional poker players. PSL, which recently concluded its fourth season, is banking on its next season to break even.
“Season 5 is where we’re going to break even and season 6 (roughly in FY23) is when we’re hoping to start making a profit. We want to take PSL international and replicate this model in London, UK and Vietnam,” said Pranav Bagai, CEO and co-founder, Poker Sports League. Bagai said that the company earned Rs 8 crore in revenue during the first two seasons while Rs 10 crore has already been invested in the league so far.
His foray into the poker industry began with ‘The Shark’ in 2008 and since then has created multiple poker related IP’s, published India’s first poker magazine (Card Player India) and provided consultancy to India’s top online poker operators.
PSL’s parent company, Mind Sports League (MSL) is valued at close to Rs 40 crore. Bagai said that his main goal is to make people aware of poker as a mind sport instead of gambling.
“MSL has three verticals. Our main goal is making poker accessible to all. How do we do that? One is the offline part which is PSL. The second vertical is Hashtag Poker which is our soon-to-be-launched video app which is based on non-real money gaming,” he said. MSL’s third vertical, Bagai said, is a streaming vertical that’s going up on Voot. “We want to move beyond streaming content on Voot and pitch to everybody. We’re working on two reality shows and one fiction show,” he added.
As far as the regulation is concerned, Section 12 of the Public Gambling Act, 1867 says that games of mere skill are exempt from the application of the Act. A game of skill, according to various High Courts, is one in which the element of skill dominates the element of chance. International Mind Sports Association (IMSA), which is an association of the world governing bodies for games like contract bridge, chess, draughts, go, xiangqi, and mahjong, recognises poker as a ‘mind sport’.
Poker experts and industry veterans have called for clarity on regulation so that the game can be given the status of a real industry.
“We’re launching the video app Hashtag Poker to make people aware that it’s a game of skill. That’s why there’s no real money involved. We don’t want people to be irresponsible and do what other RMG (real money gaming) players are doing. We’re developing their entire user journey from being exposed to the game to learning it and playing it responsibly,” Bagai said.
If poker winners are being charged 30 per cent TDS on their winning, he asks, then why can’t it be recognised as a real sport?
“Plus, there are so many ways to create jobs in the field of tech, streaming, etc. It’s only going to grow. Depending on their stakes, professionals can earn anywhere between Rs 20 lakhs to a crore a year,” he said.
Copyright©2022 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today