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Opinion: India’s unregulated betting industry impacts the world

Legalise sports betting to reduce match fixing

Banning sports betting eradicates match-fixing, right? Wrong.

Anti-gambling advocates all around the world argue that banning sports wagering will stamp out match-fixing. It’s the main argument by US supporters of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act 1992, which the state of New Jersey is trying to fight.

It’s currently the belief in India where Indian lawmakers are reviewing the legal status of sports betting.

It’s also making headlines around the world at the moment as two Indian bookmakers are claiming that they have been able to fix specific parts of the 2017/18 Ashes series for private punters.

The UK newspaper published the dossier, where the two Indian bookmakers said they had an inside Australian player, known as ‘the Silent Man’ who gave them signals, which would indicate he was fixing an over, or a moment in the game.

As a result, many are arguing that banning betting on cricket, football, and other sports will eradicate match-fixing.

But it doesn’t, and we are here to explain why.

Match-fixing is where a game is fixed to create a pre-determined result, whether it be the overall score or an outcome within gameplay.

It is connected to sports betting because people engage in match-fixing to win big on the fixed outcome. Match-fixing can occur for other reasons, but for this article, we will keep it to gambling.

Match-fixing dates long before recorded history and even occurred in the Ancient Olympics. While gambling became illegal in nearly every part of the world in the 19th century, match-fixing continued, which should have been an early indication that banning sports betting doesn’t stamp out the illicit activity.

But then there is the argument that match-fixing is occurring in countries where sports betting is legal, including with the Australian “Silent Man”. If these allegations do prove to be true, it will spark a misguided argument that sports betting should be banned to stamp out illegal and improper behaviour.

Match-fixing is a lot easier to do without any regulations in place

If sports betting is banned, all of the responsible wagering policies and regulations that bookmakers have to adhere will be scrapped too.

Legal bookmakers are licensed by a regulator and are required to meet numerous conditions to get and keep their license. For example, a legal Australian bookie could be licensed by the Northern Territory.

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Under the terms of the license, it must adhere to several responsible wagering policies, including to “collaborate with sports and law enforcement agencies and the appropriate regulator on the provision of information to assist detection and investigation of suspicious activity or breaches of the relevant code of conduct for that sport”.

The Australian government also agrees to specific policies, which requires all state and territory governments to work with betting agencies to adopt an industry standard to deter match-fixing.

These policies are similar in other countries where sports betting is legal, including the UK.

Regulated bookmakers are required to notify authorities of any suspicious betting patterns. If the bookies don’t, and they’re caught, they will lose their license and can no longer legally operate.

Take the 2013 English Match Fixing scandal as an example. The National Crime Agency arrested several individuals for allegedly fixing the English association football matches. The NCA arrested them following two investigations by the Daily Telegraph and the Sun on Sunday.

The European online gambling watchdog FederBet supplied the information to investigators, which it would have received from bookmakers, leading to the arrests.

Without these regulations, there’s less chance a match-fixing incident will be picked up and there could be hundreds or even thousands of incidents which could have happened without anyone noticing.

There’s likely to be more incidents in places where there are no regulatory bodies to investigate, nor any deterrent such as hefty fines or prison time.

India can fix problems by legalising sports betting

India needs to legalise sports betting to reduce match-fixing on both a national and international level.

The Indian government didn’t even consider a regulated industry until the 2013 match-fixing scandal which rocked the Indian Premier League.

Delhi Police arrested three cricketers, Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, for the suspicion of spot-fixing, which kicked off a nationwide investigation into illegal betting companies and other match-fixing incidents.

To preserve the integrity of Indian cricket, the Supreme Court created the Lodha Committee, which has been looking into legalising sporting betting. The committee argues it will not only support the sporting industry but boost the economy too.

As part of the review of a regulated sports wagering industry, a gaming organisation, known as the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), released a paper proposing that cricket should be categorised as a game of skill.

While betting on games of skill in India is legal, individual states have their own laws about which games fit into the category.

The Indian Cricket Board has also been approached over legalising sports betting, however, the response has been less than enthusiastic.

But if something doesn’t change soon, the rate of match-fixing incidents going undetected will continue, and it will impact countries with tight regulations in place like the Ashes and Australia.

Had there been appropriate regulations in place in India, the alleged Ashes incident may never have happened.

Some argue match-fixing is kept under check in India, but the reality is we only hear about those who are caught, we can’t guarantee there aren’t many more cases flying under the radar.

With nation-wide regulation sports betting can blossom and become a deterrent to match-fixers and spot fixers because transparency in transactions will allow authorities to watch the money and spot irregular activity much quicker.