India sports bettors need to have “the right to do wrong”

TAGs: Betfair, cricket, India, indian premier league, IPL, sports betting

india-cricket-sports-bettingThe India Premier League (IPL) cricket betting scandal continues to dominate India’s media circles thanks to the involvement of several Bollywood figures, including Celebrity Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty. The Delhi Police claim Shetty wagered Rs 100k (US $1,750) on a recent IPL match, although Shetty says the charges are “complete nonsense.” Another Indian actress, the single-named Ramya, has sued a news outlet over its claim that the former brand ambassador for the IPL’s Royal Challengers Bangalore acted as a conduit for illegal bookies.

Shetty’s husband, Raj Kundra, the co-owner of the IPL’s Rajasthan Royals, has been accused of wagering over Rs 10m ($175k) over the past three IPL seasons. Kundra has suggested his wagering activities were largely losers, but police said that doesn’t jibe with Kundra’s claim to have mostly backed his own team to win, given the team’s winning record over the past season. However, police clarified that there was “no evidence” to suggest Kundra was involved in any spot- or match-fixing schemes.

In the wake of the countrywide crackdown on illegal bookies, the Hindustan Times revealed that a number of Indian bookies have set up shop in Macau, serving a dedicated client list of visiting Bollywood celebrities. Delhi police reported that other bookies had sought refuge aboard the state of Goa’s floating casinos, although searches of the vessels failed to produce the desired arrests.

Still more bookies are reportedly making great use of online betting exchange Betfair, despite a 2010 Bombay High Court order instructing authorities to take action to block access to the site. The Indian Express reported that eight prominent Indian bookies recently placed under arrest had set up master accounts on Betfair, with sub-accounts made available to the bookies’ sub-agents in India and Pakistan. The agents provided punters with access to the site while handling the money via the traditional Muslim hawala money transfer channels.

The IPL brouhaha has led to loud calls for legislation (a) explicitly outlawing match fixing and (b) explicitly legalizing sports betting. India’s sports minister has confirmed he’s working on the former but denied media reports that he was crafting the latter. That’s a misguided strategy, according to the Hindu Center for Politics and Public Policy, which has just published a report titled Twisted Willow: Gambling, Sport & Cricket in India. The report’s authors say India’s existing prohibitions on gambling are out of tune with modern reality and that gambling has a legitimate role to play in India’s overall economy.

The report’s authors also make a “moral philosophical argument for regulating gambling” by distinguishing harmless betting activity from real crimes like cheating and fraud. Celebrating “the importance of liberty and individual choice,” the authors insist there is “a need to have the right to do wrong.” Based on the demonstrated popularity of betting on sports in India, there’s an even bigger need for legislators to bring the activity out of the shadows.


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