Should cricket betting be legalized in India?

Lata Jain

Cricket betting has emerged as one of the key sources of black money generation and according to one account it could be as high as Rs.3 lakh crore which should be controlled, the Supreme Court was told on Tuesday.

A Supreme Court-appointed panel on Tuesday suspended the Indian Premier League’s Chennai and Rajasthan franchises for two years, dealing a stunning blow to a showpiece event which introduced glamour and big money to one of the favorite sports of Indians. One is forced to think again, if betting should be legalized in India?

lata jain

Lata Jain

Gambling is currently banned in India. However, given the Indian match-fixing scandals that have taken place, the ban on betting has not been an effective deterrent to corrupt gambling. Although the nature of cricket is such that it typically requires the involvement of more than one person to sway the match, it is nonetheless highly susceptible to corruption. Bookmakers take bets on every ball and every over or inning in the game. While cricket governing bodies have attempted to minimize corruption issues in the sport, there remains a need for an effective, statutory regulation of the industry within India.

In an organized sport, particularly cricket, there are two main ways corrupt betting practices manifest: match-fixing and spot-fixing. Match-fixing occurs when a player is offered money to alter the outcome of the game. Spot-fixing often occurs when players fix details of one or a few particular plays, instead of the outcome of the entire match, in exchange for money so that individuals betting on the game can win. Such fixed-odds bets tend to attract millions of dollars across Asia. Basically, in spot-fixing, if a team wins or loses a match in a dramatically unexpected way as a result of corrupt under performance, then the winnings from the bets increase significantly.

It is quite surprising how many forms of gambling are popular in our country considering that all gambling is supposed to be illegal. Well, actually, there is one form of gambling that is legal—horse racing! However, even though horse racing is completely legal, most of the gambling occurs through illegal means, usually through underground casino communities. Furthermore, some of the most popular forms of gambling that take place in the community center around underground lotteries, cock-fighting, and gambling on sports events such as boxing and football. In fact, football-betting is one of the more popular gambling avenues among the corporate.

India should legalize betting,” says Anirudh a lawyer of a firm firm that serves organizations and indivual involved in gambling. “Betting is a vice that cannot be eliminated. Instead of turning its back on the problem, the government should find solutions.”

There is no dearth of legislation in India to control and regulate betting and gambling. As per the seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the Union government is empowered to make laws to regulate the conduct of lotteries, while the State governments have been given the responsibility of authorising/conducting the lotteries and making laws on betting and gambling.

The Public Gambling Act, 1867, provides details for the punishment of public gambling. The Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998, lays down guidelines and restrictions in conducting lotteries. Section 294-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, lays down punishment for keeping a lottery office without the authorization of the State government, while Section 30 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, prevents any person from bringing a suit for recovery of any winnings won by way of a wager — this ensures that no claim for recovery of any winnings in lotteries, gambling or betting can be brought before the court.

Gambling is often associated with crime. The relationship is easy to understand. Many types of gambling have been, indeed still are, illegal. Hence, by definition, criminals were the only operators of games. When gambling restrictions were relaxed, criminals were the first to open up legal gambling establishments.

The fundamental policy question is whether the benefits of legalized sports gambling outweigh the cost to society. Gambling may be considered a recreational outlet, similar to other entertainment and leisure products and services. “Purchase” of gambling is in many ways the same as that of a movie ticket. In this sense, gambling offers legitimate entertainment particularly for the risk seekers in society. On the other hand, gambling addiction can affect a segment of society. Despite the widespread footprint of illegal gambling in India, research on this subject is non-existent. In the US, the UK and Canada studies show that 0.5% or so of the adult population is either “pathological” or “problem” gamblers. A 1995 Australian study estimated the social costs of gambling to be considerably less than the social benefits. One common misconception is that crime increases were gambling happens.

“I propose that we legalize sports betting in India “says Mahendra agarwal a bookie. With gambling already so widespread, it is better for it to be in the open. I suggest we define this as the “lawful placement of a wager or bet on the outcome of a future uncertain event in sports”. The term “sports” should be defined specifically —to include sports where fairness rules are enforced clearly and with zero tolerance. Sports where fights between animals like cock and bulls, rigged outcomes boxing and wrestling,   should be excluded.  There should be transparent regulation and a high standard of capital adequacy for the book makers says Vipul shah who is high into sports betting. A percentage of the revenues should be set aside specifically to assist with problem gamblers. Legalising sports betting would have some benefits, say experts. It could reduce instances of match- or spot-fixing, generate tax revenues for the government, and protect minors and other vulnerable people from the risk posed by an unregulated market says Bhavani kumar tax consultant.

The idea of legalizing betting in India has been positively received by the Indian population since the 2010 match-fixing scandal. By regulating it, the government can keep a check on individuals and prevent future match-fixing issues. Clearly, the social stigma sometimes attached to gambling is not very prevalent in India.

The need for regulation of cricket in India is clear. Given the judgment of  trial over match-fixing, previous scandals that took place in India and other countries, and the fact that most of the time, Indian bookmakers are involved in throwing cricket matches, a strong regulatory model will effectively prevent and deter corrupt betting practices and preserve the integrity of cricket as a sport

Under a complete ban on betting, betting on corrupted matches has flourished.

 Legalizing betting would bring in more competition and transparency into the secret world of bookies, which could curtail illegal betting. Sikkim and Goa are the only two States in India where betting is official says Mohan kumar a cricket coach.

Will betting be legalized?

By regulating legal betting, as well as preventing and deterring illegal betting practices, India can effectively protect the integrity of an international sport.

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