Regulated Sports Betting Gaining Momentum in India

Posted on: June 29, 2013, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: October 10, 2013, 02:31h.

In a country that is obsessed with the game of cricket, the Indian Premier League has been a massive success. But that success has been threatened by a series of match-fixing scandals that have started to leave fans concerned about the integrity of the IPL and the sport of cricket internationally as well.

Cricket Match-Fixing Scandals

Given the immense popularity of cricket, many agree that something has to be done to curb these damaging scandals, some of which have led to the arrest of both players and illegal bookmakers operating in India. One solution that appears to be gaining some traction is the legalization of sports betting – a move that would presumably take betting on cricket and other sports out of the shadows and into a regulated environment.

It’s a move that appears to have broad support in India. A recent survey by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry found that 74 percent of respondents agreed that legalizing sports betting would help prevent match fixing.

At the moment, most sports betting is illegal in India (with the notable exception of horse racing). But according to a report in the Washington Post, it is estimated that the illegal betting market in India is worth nearly $52 billion.

The match fixing has sometimes involved manipulating game outcomes, but more regularly dealt with micro-betting scenarios – having players fix individual balls that have little impact on the game as a whole and may not seem out of place even to the most experienced viewer. For instance, a bowler might bowl one ball wide early in a match – an action that has virtually no impact on the final result, but which could be valuable to a gambler who had bet on that specific result.

Pros and Cons of Legalization

Supporters of legalized sports betting point out that along with bringing gambling activity into a regulated setting, it will also generate jobs and tax revenue across India. But with gambling being looked upon negatively throughout India’s history, some wonder if the country is ready for such a dramatic shift, and whether legalizing it wouldn’t cause high levels of problem gambling among the less educated and poorer segments of the Indian population.

“Should we legalize it only because we are not able to enforce the ban fully? The country is not ready,” said S. N. Srivastava, a special police commissioner who is investigating the most recent cricket match-fixing scandal.