Lesson from IPL6: Should Betting in India be Legalized?

After the IPL6 spot fixing scandal: What is the one lesson India must Learn? Is the Lesson from IPL6 spot fixing scandal: Sports Betting in India be legalized.

I think India must legalize the Sports betting in India.There are strong reasons in support of legalizing sports betting in India.

But before that, a snippet about Fixing (Spot or match) and Betting, which are not the same; as many of us assume them to.

Betting is waging Money on a certain outcome in an event. For instance, on a sunny day, two friends can make a bet on — It’ll rain in the evening. Here one person will bet in favor of rain in the evening and the other will bet against it.

Humans can bet on the outcomes of any event under the sun. They can wage almost anything in that bet(money, livestock, house, business, spouse, self … anything). People can do it legally, illegally and partially legally.

Fixing is Not betting. Fixing is an ancillary to Betting. Fixing is using influence to ensure a particular outcome in an event. For instance, in a cricket match between Australia and India; if the Betting company sees that it will have to pay more money to betting people, if India wins; then it will use influence (mostly money, paid to key Indian players) to ensure that India plays in such a manner that the team India loses.

This distinction between Betting and Fixing became amply clear in the fixing scandal in England involving Pakistan players. In the said scandal, in which Mohammad Amir, Salman butt and others had to face imprisonment; the players were prosecuted not for betting but for Fixing. In England sports betting is legal. This means that any person can bet on Sports event outcomes, legally. Hence the bets waged on games involving Pakistan team was legal. But what the players were found guilty of was the Fixing. That’s how they conspired with the bookies, took money from the Bookies and ensured a particular outcome. The court which found the Pakistan players guilty of Fixing — saw the act as one duping those who have waged money on the said event.

Thus fixing and Betting are two different things, which normally follow one another.

This brings us to the Question: After the IPL6 spot fixing scandal, involving dozens including S Sreesanth, is it time for India to legalize sports Betting in India?

I think India should think legalizing sports betting. The reasons are:

Any probabilistic events which have an annual turnover of thousands of crores, must have legal betting status. Why? As legal or illegal, if there is money in a sport, or if people have loads of surplus money, people will bet. In the absence of a Betting law — the Government is simply ignoring the presence of it. It’s the “pigeon and the Cat situation”, where pigeon on seeing a cat, simply closes its eyes, assuming that the cat is not there.

ipl6 betting in indiaLegalizing betting will serve three purposes:

1) It’ll make a certain part of the sports betting in India traceable (although illegal betting will always be there). Traceable means, knowing the big money sources and their entry channels. This will be a positive step against money laundering and black money.

2) It will give a certain protection from unfair practices like Fixing, to people who wage money on these bets. The way it safeguards the bettees in UK.

3) It will safeguard the vulnerable young players from Betting mafias. As only when betting is made legal, clauses and sub clauses stating “dos and donts” in betting will be incorporated.  The picture will then become similar to Anti-doping legislation, where players know which drugs are considered dope and which don’t.

 

The Indian Governments, of the present and the past, have a peculiar approach towards the perceived negative acts like gambling, betting etc. This approach basically tries to ignore the presence of these acts in the society. The reason for this approach is the Governments’ belief that recognizing these acts will encourage such acts.

To be honest, this belief is not wrong either. Legalizing such acts do encourage such acts.

But, legalizing such acts also brings to public domain a certain pros and cons of these acts. This in turn brings a degree of informed decision making on the part of the bettee (someone who wages money on bets). That apart, although betting can never be realistically compared to share market, where the speculation do has some solid fundamentals to rely on, still when you make betting legal, it also starts mimicking a share market like structure.  I assume, if the betting is made legal in India, it will be more like cigarette, tobacco and liquor situation in the country. Those who choose to consume these even after knowing the hazards, will delve into the betting game, others will keep a distance.

 

The Solution:

To conclude, it’s important to understand why we are discussing — Should betting in India be legalized?

We are discussing this not to cast aspersions on the present and the past Governments. Any government which is a unifying entity of many individuals, presents a collective wisdom. Hence if the Indian Governments of the past and the present choose to be anti betting, gambling, prostitution all this while; then there must be some clear intent to safeguard the people from the bad effects of these acts.  And in past, some of these Governmental anti-stands proved good for the people. One such example is the ban on Lottery tickets. The ban on lottery tickets is now more than two decades old; and it actually saved thousands of families.

Then why are we discussing the question of legalizing betting in India?

We are discussing this because things can be ignored only up to a certain level. When they grow beyond a certain level, they need to be acknowledged and the issues within addressed. Post liberalization, wealth of a section of Indians within India and abroad increased many folds. With this wealth, increased the tendency to evade taxes. To aid these evasions Hawala and money laundering networks mushroomed all over India.  These networks, which were founded to help the rich evade taxes and hide wealth from the Government; are now being used by betting syndicates. And this time, the money may belong to a common man. If India would have done better on curtailing the amounts of black money in Indian economy, no one today would be discussing the option of legalizing the betting in India. But since Indians are still doing most of there transactions with unaccounted money; there’s no way the Government can trace unaccounted money in betting market, unless it makes the betting legal. Or it can take the longer more tedious route — Continue with Anti-betting stand, crack Hawala networks, hunt diligently for money laundering instances and device ways to reduce the unaccounted money (or black money) in the economy.

What is happening at present is that people, including common man, is putting money in sports betting. But this he’s doing without any safety net. With literally no protection against unfair practices like fixing; every time he bets his hard earned money, he’s at the mercy of Betting syndicates. That apart, in the absence of a detailed legislation on betting; the people who are using betting for money laundering are also benefiting.

Although, Government can continue with its anti-betting stance, by making the anti-betting code even more tougher with detailed clauses and sub-clauses, and by giving power to the executive (the police), even then that path looks quite tough. Going by the estimated size of sports betting market in India, the implementation and monitoring of such legislation will be extremely resource intensive (resources like money, technology and man power).

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