Indian Premier League chiefs were Sunday defending themselves against government charges that the lucrative Twenty20 event in South Africa was "encouraging gambling and betting."
Sports minister Manohar Singh Gill lashed out at an IPL mobile phone SMS contest in which participants win
cash prizes for correctly guessing the sequence of runs scored in the subsequent over of the match.
"I see the commercial use of cricket for business gains that is going on," Gill, a former federal chief election commissioner, said in a statement.
"I am concerned about the latest venture of encouraging viewers to make ball-by-ball predictions of runs scored for economic gain in the shape of cash prizes.
"This is viewed as openly encouraging gambling and betting which official bodies do not resort to, even in countries where betting is legal -- all this to make money and enlarge their TV viewership base."
The IPL, already plagued by dwindling viewership across India after the tournament was shifted to South Africa for security reasons, downplayed the sports minister's charges.
"A lot of effort has gone into this concept (SMS contest) and into making this possible," IPL commissioner Lalit Modi was quoted as saying in South Africa by the Times of India.
"It's a valid point (made by Gill). But the margin of something like that happening is one in a million. If this game works, fine. If not, then we will leave it aside."
Gill warned the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which owns the IPL, of the repercussions the contest could have in a country where betting is illegal, keeping in mind the match-fixing scandal of 2000.
"We have already had a match-fixing scandal in the game," he said.
"It seems the ICC (International Cricket Council) had expressed concerns about such possibilities in the IPL... the game has to be protected for future generations."
A spokesman for the BCCI, Rajiv Shukla, said: "SMS games are there in every sport all over the world. If there is any report of gambling within the game, we will look into it."
The tournament, which began on April 18, is due to end on May 24.
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