THE Indian Law Commission is preparing to submit a report advising the federal government to legalise sports betting.
According to local media outlets, the panel, which had been set up by the Supreme Court to review the legal status of gambling in India, believes regulation would help curb criminal behaviour.
The recommendation follows the shock revelations by the UK media outlet, the Sun, that two Indian bookmakers had been arranging rigged periods of gameplay in cricket games, such as the Big Bash League, with the help of an Australian insider.
The Indian bookmakers allege that the insider information could be used to bet millions into the illegal gambling market in India.
The panel was tasked to write up a report on whether betting on cricket should be allowed in 2016, after the Lodha Committee report advised that sports betting should be legalised to prevent similar incidents like the 2013 Indian Premier League match-fixing scandal.
The incident saw cricketers S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, as well as the former Board of Control for Cricket in India president N. Sreenivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, and several bookies arrested.
The Commission reviewed evidence submitted by interested parties and reached out to the BCCI, with several clubs slow to respond.
However, the commission has reportedly concluded regulation is the best course of action.
“If it is not possible to prevent such activities completely, strictly regulating these activities remains the only viable option,” the commission draft report says.
It also recommends legalising all gambling as a regulated industry would ensure “detection of fraud and money laundering” while generating revenue for the government and creating jobs.
The commission won’t be submitting the report until next month, according to the Hindu Times. However, it reportedly features several stipulations including licensing arrangements for sports betting companies and gambling operators, cashless transactions, and the requirement that gamblers link their Aadhaar and PAN card to their betting accounts.
The commission reportedly places importance on cashless transactions as it “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,” it says.
The commission also recommends that the government should make match-fixing and sports fraud criminal offences to tie-in with the regulatory framework.
India prohibits most forms of gambling, excluding lotteries and skill-based games. While states have different interpretations of what skill-based games are when it comes to poker and rummy, sports betting is banned throughout the country.
Illegal sports betting and gambling has flourished, however, causing match-fixing to thrive. Industry body Ficci estimated that the illegal cricket betting industry in India is worth around Rs 300,000 crore.
The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has also put forward the benefits of legalising sports betting and regulating it the same way as horse racing, which is considered a game of skill in the country.
“Legalising betting on cricket will also bring in a substantial amount of FDI (foreign direct investment),” AIGF CEO, Roland Landers, said.
He called for a gaming commission to be established to “promote responsible gaming and prevent money laundering.”
“Merely by taxing betting at 20%, the government can earn thousands of crores every year,” he added.
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