With the growth in the number of match-fixing issues in the recent past, the debate on legalizing the sports betting in India is taking center stage. It wants to restrict, rather decriminalize, the illegal activity.
The uncertainty of an outcome is what makes a game interesting. Match-fixing removes this unpredictability and brings predetermined results into the equation. As a result, sports become fixed and scripted, and the fans lose faith in the game. Legalizing or regulating betting could be the answer to the world cricket’s rampant match-fixing problems.
The Condon Commission in its report to the ICC suggested that legalization of sports betting and a legal structure of betting presents a better chance to control match-fixing in Cricket. But the existing status quo in India is not favorable to effective regulation. Illegal betting is very difficult to track and presents significant evidential and investigatory challenges because of its secretive nature.
A complete prohibition on betting does not limit or eliminate match-fixing. On the other hand, effective regulations allow for revenue to be generated through legalized means. The practice of illegal sports betting leaves many families bankrupt and many people behind bars. By bringing this industry from outside the scope of the law into the legal system, two targets would be achieved – the industry would attract the right kind of sponsors, which, in turn, would take it out of the hands of the current controllers, i.e. the underworld.
The Law Commission of India (LCI) recommended that gambling and betting on sports, including cricket, be permitted as regulated activities and utilized to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
If the legalized betting system is structured smartly, it can limit spot-fixing in cricket. If cricket betting is legalized in India, the government can make income from the activities taxable under the Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017and the Income Tax Act, 1961. The revenue generated from betting will greatly increase India’s GDP.
To ensure that the public doesn’t harm itself if cricket betting is legalized, the LCI suggests that there must be a limit on the number of transactions allowed to an individual over a specific period. Even the volume of the stake could be controlled by linking it to PAN and Aadhaar cards. Such activities should also not be allowed to those below the age of 18, the suggestions in the report state.
According to The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), regulation is not only to restrict illegal activities but also to create a source of revenue for the government. Regulating more than INR 3,00,000 crore of unregulated economic activities will provide a boost to the economy.
The LCI states that it is not desirable for India to legalize gambling and betting in the “present scenario.” But the failure of state governments to implement a complete ban on these activities has led to a rampant increase in their practice. The LCI states in its report that since it is not possible to stop these activities completely, regulating them efficiently is the only viable option.
While it does not seem that sports betting will be legalized any time soon, the LCI’s suggestion of having it regulated might be a step towards its legalization in the future.