India’s top political legal authority says the country should focus on eradicating sports betting rather than legalizing the practice.
A panel led by India’s former Chief Justice R.M. Lodha issued a report this week calling for the legalization of cricket betting but the country’s Minister of Law and Justice says India would be better served using the legal tools it has to stamp out the practice altogether.
In an interview with the Economic Times, D.V. Sadananda Gowda (pictured) said the Lodha committee’s recommendation that India legalize cricket betting “can be considered if at all we are unable to curtail [betting].” But Gowda said India’s existing laws were sufficient to stamp out gambling and so the government “should, as of now, go ahead with the elimination before considering its legalization.”
Gowda’s comments fly in the face of the Lodha committee’s belief that betting could be “effectively dealt with by providing a legal framework” and that legalizing betting would serve both the sport of cricket and India’s economy. Gowda’s comments also suggest a degree of ignorance regarding the widely held consensus that the country’s Public Gaming Act 1867 is in dire need of modernization.
Polls conducted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), which has been pushing for legal sports betting for years, have found that 74% of respondents believe legalizing cricket betting would help curb the types of match- and spot-fixing scandals that have plagued the Indian Premier League in recent years.
The Doha-based International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) has estimated that Indian bettors wager up to $200m on every one-day international played by the Indian cricket team. ICSS estimates the total value of India’s illegal betting market is $150b per year, from which the government could carve a lucrative slice if it were to legalize and tax sports wagering.
It appears evident that individual Indian states will have to take the lead on the legalization front. The state of Sikkim recently launched ‘online’ keno and virtual horserace betting within its borders but cricket betting is still at the aspirational stage.