Is it time to regulate Sports Betting in India?

Is it time to regulate Sports Betting in India?

India has over the last few decades done remarkably well in range of sports. Despite winning accolades in hockey, kabaddi and tennis to name but a few, cricket is still numerous when it comes to fan following. The number of eyeballs fixated on a cricket match (especially one against Pakistan) is unmatched. It is also estimated that Rs. 13,00 crore worth of bets are placed on every one-day match (ODI) that India participates in. This amount was estimated four years ago when India played 21 ODI matches which makes a total of Rs.27,300 crore worth of bets for the year.

Sports Betting Report by FICCI

An official report commissioned by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in 2013 estimated the size of the underground sports betting market at Rs. 3 lakh-crore. The report emphasised on how this money could have been used for development projects if sports betting was regulated. Despite what your views might be on sports betting, it is safe to say that it will bring more benefit to India if it is regulated.

It is this fact that led to the Law Commission of India to produce a report titled ‘Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting Including Cricket in India’. The importance of this report can be gauged by the fact that it was produced on a recommendation from the Supreme Court.

The report was made available to public to get a discussion going regarding the legality of sports betting. The overwhelming response from the public and other key stakeholders pointed towards legalisation of betting. The FICCI hailed the findings of the report with the conclusion that both gambling and betting are closely intertwined. It shed light on the black world of underground gambling that in turn spawns a host of illegal activities.

As per the FICCI, regulation of cricket betting will have dual benefits by restricting illegal activities and generating revenue for the government. The money generated can be re invested to further improve sports and tourist facilities. The report highlighted two countries, United Kingdom and China who are reaping the benefits of legalised online gambling. The report claims that the nations mentioned above have successfully used the revenue generated by online gambling towards various good causes.

The report also argued that the lack of any legal standing towards this matter has not prevented betting and gambling from taking place. Gambling will continue regardless so the logical step is to legalise and eliminate some of the ‘black’ activities being carried out. By taxing the activity, the revenue generated could be equivalent to the size of the Reserve Bank of India’s transfer to the government by way of dividend and surplus.

India Culturally Opposed to Gambling

Some claim the decision to legalise cricket betting is much harder than it seems. India has been culturally opposed to gambling. Even though the activity has existed since ancient times, gambling is still considered a taboo subject. It is a subject that is not discussed openly even though betting references are found in ancient scriptures. More importantly the need to regulate such activities is mentioned in the scriptures as well.

Those opposed to cricket betting immediately mention the fight that erupted between Pandavas and Kauravas in Mahabharat. The fight originated from a gambling game with Pandavas putting their wife as stake. The consequences as we all know where disastrous for both sides. The ruin that betting can bring about is therefore well documented.

However, it can be argued that the forms of betting have changed over the course of time. Deciding what constitutes as ‘skill’ or ‘chance’ in the new age of betting make judgement of morality an indeed difficult question. To complicate matters even further, betting on horse racing is legal in India. This is because it is considered as a game of skill and not chance to which purists argue that based on this cricket should be made legal as well.

Many argue that alcohol has potential to be destructive to society in the same vain as gambling. However, this does not stop the government from putting a high tax rate on alcohol consumption. Kerala generates 20 percent of its revenue from taxing alcohol and accounts for the highest per capita consumption of liquor in India.

Arrival of International Betting Sites

The other issue that is faced by the general public is the accessibility of gambling sites. Improvements in technology allows us to place bets using our phones or visiting an international betting site like Royal Panda with a click of a button. These international sites operate outside of India and thus do not have to adhere to laws set for India.

This loophole allows them to market their products to Indian customers without being held accountable if things were to go wrong. If Leo Vegas were to shut down tomorrow, there would be no way for Indian punters to recover their money from the site. Therefore, legalisation is important so that these international betting sites operate with accountability.

In the end, it is widely recognised that a blanket ban on sports betting in India is not the ideal scenario. Gambling will continue to exist despite the implementation of any such bans. This will create further problems including a substantial monetary loss to the economy. Regulated gambling is the way forward is about time that the Indian government recognizes and implements it.

Title: Is it time to regulate Sports Betting in India?

Posted On: 25/11/2019

Author: Tony Willets