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When will sports betting be legal in India?

It is a well-known fact that Indians enjoy betting, be it on sports, politics, or any other major events. Time and again we read in the papers or come across news about betting rackets caught and betting syndicates busted. But this has not deterred the illegal bookies, who find different and innovative ways to accept bets. As times have progressed, many punters have started using online sportsbooks to place their bets. One can find which are the best sportsbooks on websites like betindia.in. But the fact remains that a majority of sports betting in India is still done through illegal bookies. And there is a strong case to legalize as soon as possible.

 Current betting laws

The current Indian law regarding betting and gambling was framed more than 150 years ago, in 1867. The Public Gambling Act prohibits all types of gambling activities and made them a punishable offense. The law is applicable to all `games of chance´, be it lotteries, gambling games, or betting of any kind. While lotteries and casinos are slowly being legalized in many states, betting remains illegal in the entire country, except for horse race betting.

A 1996 Supreme Court judgement deemed that horse race betting was not just a `game of chance´ but required `skill´ on the part of the bettor to pick up the winning horse, paving the way for legalized horse race betting.

Ironically, while the British had banned sports betting in India, the UK is currently one of the biggest betting markets in the world, while India continues to ban betting.

Outdated nature of the law

While the law back then was framed with considerable deliberations, there have been very few changes since then to keep up with the change in time. Today, sports betting is gradually moving from physical bookies to online sportsbooks, but the law has not been amended to include the same. As a result, there are a host of foreign betting websites that accept players from India, and with the lack of any alternatives, punters are grabbing on to them.

This results in an outflow of thousands of crores of rupees from India to the coffers of such foreign companies, and the Indian government gains nothing from it.

Size of illegal betting market in India

Almost a decade ago, a FICCI report said that the Indian government was losing up to ₹20,000 crore annually in taxes, due to illegal sports betting. More recently, about 5 years back, an independent survey by the International Centre for Sports Security, based in Doha, estimated the size of the illegal sports betting industry of India to be approximately worth a staggering $150 billion dollars.

These reports suggest that despite the law, illegal sports betting is a thriving industry, which is mostly controlled by nefarious nexuses of mafia and other anti-social elements, and the authorities have largely been turning a blind eye towards them.

Calls for legalizing sports betting

After the infamous IPL scandal of 2013, the Lodha Committee, appointed by the Supreme Court to clean up cricket in India, had suggested legalizing betting on cricket in the country to prevent such scandals.

Shashi Tharoor, an MP in the lower house of the parliament, had moved a private member’s bill to regulate online gaming, including sports betting. Even the Law Commission in its 276th report opined that betting and gambling should be regularised in India, and all such transactions should be linked to an individual’s PAN or Aadhar to increase transparency, as well as to curb the menace of addictions.

Conclusion

As time has evolved, so has the need for more evolved laws. Rather than trying to suppress sports betting and indirectly promoting illegal sports betting, the time is ripe to legalize sports betting sooner rather than later. This will not only help to regulate it better but will also bring in substantial tax revenues which can be used for the betterment of the people at large.

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