India is once again taking baby steps toward legalizing sports betting. The sports-obsessed country already has a thriving underground market, but betting is only legally permissible when the competitors are of the equine variety. This contradiction was called out last June by Mukul Mudgal, the former chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, who believes legal sports betting would not only provide the state with a new revenue stream but also enable better monitoring of attempts at match-fixing and spot-fixing.
The country’s sports ministry recently revived a three-year-old study the government had commissioned on the UK’s gambling regulations. The study was shelved after the sports minister of the day expressed his disinterest in the subject, but the current minister is taking a second look. The Times of India quoted sources saying that while the issue was still at a preliminary stage, the idea of raising revenue was “a major motivating factor.”
In a 2012 report titled “Regulating sports betting in India: A Vice to be Tamed,” the Federation of Indian Chambers or Commerce and Industry (FICCI) quoted KPMG stats indicating that the country of over 1.2b people had a gambling market worth around Rs 3 trillion (US $54.7b), of which the government’s share (based on a 20% profits tax) could amount to between $2.2b and $3.5b.
Once the sports ministry has reacquainted itself with its study’s findings, it would send its recommendations to the ministries of law, home and finance, whose approval would be required for the plans to go forward. Public opinion will also play a major role, as India’s government – like government’s everywhere – has no interest in being seen to be encouraging gambling.
However, a 2012 FICCI survey found that 68% of Indians believed sports betting could be controlled, 74% believed legalizing sports betting would help curb match fixing and 83% said regulating betting was better than banning it. That would suit the International Olympic Committee, which has urged governments around the world “to create a legal framework in which legal and regular betting can take place.”