Here’s what you need to know about ‘legalised’ cricket betting

It was a few days before the ongoing India-Australia series that bookies (a slang for bookmakers who accept bets on sports results) from metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Jaipur moved to smaller and comparatively less popular towns like Ratnagiri, Nashik, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Rajkot and Belgaum. Once there, they purchased new SIM cards, opened new ledgers and started new accounts for their regular customers.

In the recent past, this has happened before every important series, and now, with the ongoing India-Australia series and the soon to come Indian Premier League (IPL), they could not have taken any chances. They move to smaller towns so that they can hide from the prying eyes of law enforcement agencies, even if it means spending a lot and moving abroad.

This happens because sports betting is illegal in India, except in the state of Sikkim, where it was recently legalized. Once caught, bookies come under the risk of seizure of equipment and cash, penalty and even jail terms, which can vary from two months to three years.

This relocation and deception has made it difficult for authorities to nab them, and as per an anonymous Mumbai police officer, the only solution to control illegal cricket betting is to legalise and regulate it.
He says so because he feels that once betting is legalised, licensed bookies themselves will come to the police and help them stop illegal betting, a threat to them.

On January 4, a three-member panel which was appointed by the Supreme Court also recommended the same thing about cricket betting. The panel was headed by Chairman RN Lodha and was set up to investigate the IPL match-fixing scandal of 2013; it was also asked to suggest ways to improve the functioning of the BCCI.

The Lodha panel took a realistic view on betting, and said that BCCI should have an "in-built mechanism" which can make sure that no players or administrators bet on matches.

"It's both positive and negative," former cricketer and BJP MP Kirti Azad told ET. He himself is fighting alleged corruption in the Delhi & District Cricket Association. "By legalising cricket betting, the government would receive more taxes. At the same time, legalised betting may attract a lot of poor people."

As of now, horse-racing is only sport in India where gambling is allowed, because the law deems it as a game of skill rather than a game of chance. However, it clearly means that betting in all other sports, especially cricket, has thrived secretly.

As per FICCI estimates, India’s betting market is worth at least Rs 3,00,000 crore, with 80% share owned by cricket. If cricket betting is legalized, the Centre can earn as much as Rs 20,000 crore.

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