As the number of bookmakers and players arrested following the latest spot fixing scandal in India increases every day, the debate around the legalization of betting as a remedy to stop corruption in Indian cricket is heating up.
According to a KPMG report, the betting market in India is worth Rs. 300,000 crores and the Government is giving up on possible revenues of 12-19,000 crores every year.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry conducted a survey to understand the challenges related to legalizing betting. Problems related to betting include social disapproval; dangers and side effects for the young and vulnerable; bookmaking involving bribery, spot fixing and match fixing; unscrupulous and unregulated operators.
There are three approaches to look at betting: prohibit it as a vice that should be curtailed; accept that it is inevitable and it takes place and seek to regulate it; encourage it as a means of generating state revenue and economic growth.
85% of people surveyed by FICCI agreed that betting on sports existed in India and 67% agreed that it is rampant in sports. Furthermore, 69% of the respondents believe that sports betting cannot be controlled as it takes place online, on the phone and is operated from outside India.
When asked how to approach betting, 84% of the respondents said they were aware that sports betting is legal in many countries and that gambling is often seen as a mean of generating employment and tax revenue for the governments.
For 74% of the people surveyed by FICCI, the Indian Government should think of legalizing and regulating betting as a way to curb match fixing, while 83% of the respondents said regulating sports betting with proper laws is better than banning it.
FICCI concluded that the way forward for sports betting in India is active regulation. "It is necessary to establish a body or bodies to oversee the regulatory process, like the UK Gambling Commission," said FICCI.
Once the Gambling Act has been amended to include a section on "authorized games" and after creating rules under the IT Act for internet sports betting, FICCI recommends the creation of a regulator with the power to grant and revoke licenses as well as the ability to investigate suspicious betting activities.
In a paper presented to the Sports Ministry, FICCI stated: "Regulation is a step forward on all these fronts. A system which seeks simply to prohibit rather than control gambling is turning its back on the problem. When regulation arrives, it is true that problems are revealed, actions need to be taken and policies enforced. But that is because regulation tends to highlight problems and issues that had previously gone unnoticed. There can be no doubt that these problems already exist in India."