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Sports integrity unit advises India to regulate bookmakers

India advised to legalise sports betting

India has been advised to legalise sports betting to rule out criminal activity in an unregulated market.

The European Sports Security Association (ESSA) advised India’s Law Commission to regulate sports betting in the country since the current situation is not sustainable.

The ESSA’s advice is in response to the Law Commission’s invitation to the general public and stakeholders to submit their views on sports betting last month.

The consultation, mandated by the Supreme Court during a case regarding Indian cricket and the Board of Control for Cricket in India, has been welcome by the sports betting integrity body.

While the ESSA highlighted the benefits, including the financial advantages as well as the ability to create integrity in a regulated market, it also noted allowing all services would undermine the changes.

The ESSA said in its response that although illegal, “betting on sport, and particularly the national game of cricket, is widespread and yet largely unregulated and untaxed.”

While those against legalising sports betting state it is due to the issue of match fixing, the ESSA believes the current market provides criminals with a platform which has been detrimental to sports.

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ESSA argued match fixing is an activity “fundamentally aimed at manipulating sporting events to defraud betting operators and their consumers”.

The regulatory body then went on to say that regulated betting operators need “to ensure the integrity of sporting events and their associated betting products.”

“Those operators invest significant resources in achieving that and work closely with authorities and sports to create an effective licensing framework that includes specific integrity initiatives.

“This partnership working undoubtedly strengthens the national integrity framework and deters corrupters from those markets, benefiting consumers, sports and operators alike.”

The ESSA also pointed out that if the government did not legalise sports betting, nothing could be done to crack down on illegal activity.

“On the basis that prohibition of betting has proved ineffective, and where a renewed drive to impose it would appear impractical, a continuation of the status quo is clearly not advantageous,” the response said.

But it was quick to establish market restrictions, including the prohibition of live betting since it believes the activity enables criminal activity, which would, therefore, undermine a regulated industry.

The ESSA also pointed out the available integrity measures for regulatory authorities including “information sharing, voiding bets, suspending markets and criminal prosecutions.”

India has been considering legalising sports betting since 2013, but only now has the country’s legislature begun to act.

Under the Public Gaming Act 1867, sports betting is illegal in all of India except the state of Sikkim. But unlicensed, unregulated and untaxed bookmakers still operate all around the country and since there are no consequences, match fixing, particularly in the Indian Premier League, occurs.

“Moreover, unregulated operators around the world will continue to offer whatever types of products they chose without any regulatory limitation, oversight or sanction,” ESSA reiterates the issue in its response.

“Imposing bet type restrictions on regulated operators does not, therefore, make it any less likely that the sporting events in that licensing jurisdiction will be any safer from betting corruption.”

As a result, the ESSA comes to the conclusion India should “allow access to all types of betting products with a range of licensed betting operators as a means of maintaining both the viability and integrity of its sporting events and betting markets.”

Whether the Law Commission, which advises the Indian government, will take the response into consideration is not clear.

What is clear is India seems to be moving in the right direction towards licensed and regulated bookmakers.