Cricket, Gambling and India

Posted on by iSikkim | Category: Business & Economy Editorials Slider Post | 2,793 views | 3 Comments

Gambling has gambled heavily on India. It’s appetite to enter Indian market, over the years, has shown only signs of strengthening. Now it has on its side some of the biggest moguls of Indian industry like Subhash Chandra (Zee) and Vijay Mallya (Kingfisher). Subhash Chandra might be famous as a media biggie but as early as in 2007 he earned almost as much from his lottery brand Playwin as the rest of his media, packaging and real estate businesses added together i.e. a cool Rs. 2400 crore.

According to Playwin website, the company has at least ten games to offer. The lotto & gaming brand of Pan India Network Ltd. claimed in June 2010 to have created 71 crorepatis and over 3,000 lakhpatis from all over India within a short span of 8 years since its establishment. Of course it doesn’t talk about the many people who would have gone bankrupt due to gambling.

But this is the visible picture. According to a story published in the Businessworld in 2008, unlawful betting in the IPL cricket season averaged $100 million per match in 2008. Indians bought over 30 million lotteries a day and the lottery market alone was estimated to be upto Rs 50,000. The total gambling industry was upwards of Rs. 100,000 crore in 2008 itself. There is hardly any doubt that despite all the recessions, the gambling industry has only gone up. Howsoever we frown at the moral aspect of gambling, it remains the most popular vice. That it can’t be stopped is clear. That it be regulated and made legal remains to be tried.

The most recent spate of events has once again highlighted the necessity to legalise it and make its tracking possible. On February 13, 2011, The Guardian reported Indian police being on alert as bookies prepare for betting bonanza duirng the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup.

Not a week passed and reports came of Indian police arresting nine men related to four cricket betting gangs with laptops and cell phones in Delhi and Mumbai. According to AFP, the gambling gangs took illegal bets during the cricket World Cup to the tune of $620,000.

The difficulty of letting gambling unregulated has serious stakes. Mint reported on February 15, 2011 through Enforcement Directorate officials that at least $US4.36 billion (Rs. 20,000 crore) will be gambled during ICC World Cup in India. On February 15, Mint reported through Reuters that an anonymous gambler has struck an £82,000 pounds ($132,300) bet with a London bookmaker on India winning the Cricket World Cup, one of the biggest ever laid in the one-day game.

While the amount of money is worrying, the bigger concern is its misuse. On September 6, 2010 the Daily Star reported that shady Asian cricket betting rings are directly funding Al-Qaida. In September 2010 itself, a Delhi court hearing an appeal for betting during the last World Cup 2007 suggested legalizing betting in India. Additional sessions judge Dharmesh Sharma remarked that legalising will at least help track transfer of funds and revenue generated can be used for welfare of public.

Judge Dharmesh Sharma said the ‘alarming” level of illegal betting in India was financing drug trafficking and terrorism. ICC is also favouring legalising gambling in India, as Sri Lanka has done in recent months.

It might be difficult for many of us to accept gambling as legal but experts suggest that legalizing would reduce the threat of betting becoming match fixing. Given the fact that betting is a closed door affair, it is nearly impossible to completely regulate and monitor and finally prove it in the court.

All of this becomes even dicier when politicians join the party. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress leader Arjun Singh who died recently was blamed for Churhat Lottery scam almost 30 years ago. More recently Pinarayi Vijayan of CPM is an accused in the power graft case and lottery scam in Kerala. In Sikkim, which is the only other state apart from Goa to have legalised gambling, there are unconfirmed reports of some people very close to political parties trying to make money out of gambling. It is for the courts to decide these case but the best advice to law makers in such matters of money would be to ensure transparent accounting.

Related Story:
Gambling in India



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