The Law Commission is set to recommend legalising betting in sports and gambling

Cricket betting

Recently few months back in December 2017 in an India-Sri Lanka cricket match four people were held for betting in Kalyan. The four accused had consistently been taking calls for the entire duration of the match at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday.

The four were questioned, and after preliminary inquiries, the police booked them under the Maharashtra Gambling Act, Indian Telegraph Act, and the Information Technology Act. The accused would accept bets from punters based in Thane district and neighbouring areas, and place bets through an online portal. An analysis of their call records has revealed that they made numerous calls to a Dubai-based number registered at frequent intervals reported the police officer.

With this main illegal betting scenario the Law Commission is set to recommend legalising betting in sports and gambling and soon  to submit its report to the government and the Supreme Court. The panel is of the opinion that lawful but strict regulation of gambling and betting would help curb illegal practices that generate black money. It would also shore up revenues of the government and generate employment.

According to the report if it is not possible to prevent such activities completely, strictly regulating these activities remains the only viable option. Regulated gambling would ensure detection of fraud and money laundering.

Cricket betting
People watching a cricket match on TV at a roadside Dhaba

In the commission’s estimate, unregulated gambling and betting currently generates about `13,000 crore. This is a major source of black-money and this untraceable money is often used for funding terrorist and other anti-national activities. The apex court had mandated the commission to examine the issue of sports betting and gambling following the spot-fixing and betting scandal during the 2013 season of IPL. Cricketers S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, the then BCCI president N. Sreenivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, and several bookies were arrested in connection with the case.

The Law Commission of India has recommended that those who run sports betting and gambling businesses should be licensed, the money transfers should be cashless and gamblers and bettors must compulsorily link their Aadhaar and PAN cards. Also in order to protect the vulnerable class of people from the ill-effects of these activities and with a view to enhance transparency, gambling and betting activities should be linked with the Aadhaar Card/PAN of the individuals and operators.

Cashless gambling and betting “would enable appropriate authorities to keep a close eye on every single transaction made in this connection. Cash transactions in this industry should entail penal consequences under relevant provisions of law.” The panel studied the practices in many countries before preparing its report. While recommending that the businesses should be licensed, the commission wants match-fixing and sports fraud to be made criminal offences.

Note that Betting or gambling is a state subject though they are loosely governed by an archaic national law, the Public Gambling Act of 1867. Most states don’t allow gambling or betting, including lotteries. According to the law, games of chance or luck are prohibited but games of skill in which bettors have a thorough knowledge of the sport at the time of placing a bet, have no restriction.

This distinction means horse racing is the only sport in India in which betting is legal as it is considered a game of skill. That also means that betting in all other sports, mostly cricket, given its huge popularity in India, has thrived behind a veil of secrecy.

Sources said the commission was likely to suggest to the government that “games of skill” and “games of luck” should be more sharply defined. Since only Parliament has the power to legislate on gambling and betting, the law panel feels it should enact a model law to regulate these activities. In one of the suggestions to “strictly regulate” these activities, the panel wants a cap on the number of times an individual can gamble and/or bet during a specific period.

The commission wants a ban on children from gambling and betting. It has suggested that gambling be categorized as “proper gambling” and “small gambling,” depending on the stakes involved, sources said.
“Proper gambling” would involve high stakes and would be feasible only for the rich. Poorer groups would be permitted “small gambling” with small stakes, the sources added. The commission wants the businesses of bookies and punters to be taxed under the relevant laws. For legalisation of these activities, the panel also feels “suitable amendments” need to be made in Foreign Exchange Regulations and FDI policy.

Though gambling and betting are illegal, but laws to deal with them are not clear. States can enact their own laws, but there is no uniformity. Most of these laws pertain to physical gambling and not online or virtual gambling Section 67 of the Information Technology Act vaguely prohibits online transmission and publication of materials.

(source: As reported by Indian Express)