It’s the penultimate over of the match between India and New Zealand. Emotions are running high, and it’s one of those events that is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Rakesh Mehra is watching this match in his room in Delhi and continuously monitoring a popular cricket website on his laptop. He has made at least a dozen phone calls in the last 15 minutes.
Rakesh has been calling his bookie to increase his stakes in India’s victory. The match ends with India winning thus making Rakesh richer by a few lakh rupees.
According to the All India Gaming Federation, India loses almost 2 lakh crore every year, due to illegal betting on cricket. If you watch cricket or have even a faint interest in it, you might know that bets are placed on almost every aspect of the game and not just the ultimate result of the match. From the toss, to how a particular player will fare, to the outcome of a specific delivery, there’s a wide range of options to bet on.
Gone are the days when bookies were shady operatives operating from dingy hideouts. Betting is now a sophisticated and globalised operation. One thing that has not changed is the kind of people who are the principals of the business. The nexus between the underworld and betting is no secret.
After the 2013 IPL match-fixing scandal, a three-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court headed by chairperson RM Lodha recommended legalising cricket betting in India.
Following this recommendation, the Law Commission solicited the views of citizens on betting as well as gambling.
Law Commission chairman Justice B S Chauhan also said, “Various media reports time and again point out that betting and gambling, though not legal in India, is practised across the country clandestinely. These reports argue that many families are rendered bankrupt, and many people are behind bars owing to these practices.” By seeking to bring this “industry” from outside the purview of the law, into the legal system, the aim is two-fold—by making it legal, the “industry” attracts the right kind of sponsors, thereby taking it out of the clutches of the current controllers, i.e. the underworld. The second objective is that it can be better controlled and regulated to put in place measures that protect citizens from financial ruin.
We, at The Better India, spoke to Jay Sayta, the founder of GLaws.in which is a first of its kind website in India monitoring law developments on gambling.
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He says, “In my opinion it would be premature to celebrate this yet. It is merely a law commission recommendation, which may or may not be taken into consideration. Even if it does, I do not see any movement happening for atleast another 5 years.”
What is the current status on betting in India?
While countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom have a legal system which allows people to participate in betting, it is considered to be illegal in India. Bookies use foreign betting websites to place their bets and make some money.
There are a few who believe that betting through the legal websites is legal as the websites receive their payments via digital wallet and technically no laws are broken.
However, even if the sites are legitimate, gambling in India is still considered to be a crime.
A paper published by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) for its conference titled ‘Regulating Sports Betting in India: A Vice To Be Tamed’ showed that an overwhelming 74 percent of respondents believed that legalising sports betting would help curb match-fixing.
The FICCI report also lays down solid recommendations in favour of legalising betting in cricket in India:
1. Protection for the young and vulnerable against the dangers of unwise betting behaviour.
2. Employment generation (more than 8000 people are employed in casinos in Goa).
3. A fair and more trusted betting experience for consumers with entertainment in a controlled and responsible way which they can trust.
4. Strike against organised crime like match-fixing which threaten to damage public trust both in sports and in the legitimate betting industry.
5. Taxation revenues for sports development and preventing sport betting from being linked to criminality or used to launder the proceeds of crime.
6. Protecting players, coaches and all involved with the sport from unscrupulous approaches.
7. Generating substantial revenues.