The illegal betting market in India is worth $150 billion (Rs 9.9 lakh crore) a year. That includes $200 million bet on every one-day international played by the Indian cricket team, according to the Doha-based International Centre for Sports Security, which promotes integrity and security in sports.
The Justice Lodha committee, in its report submitted Monday, said betting in cricket should be legalised to clean up the game, though fixing matches should be a crime.
“With only horse racing legally permissible in India, those interested in betting have gone underground, with illegal bookies managing affairs. As is inevitable, the hawala system has awakened to these channels and money laundering has also become an inevitable outcome,” said the report.
The committee estimates the global legal sports betting market to be worth more than $400 billion. But during a United Nations conference at Doha in April 2015, an expert said it could be worth $4 trillion.
Other than horse racing, the only legal avenue for betting in India, is that many states allow regulated selling of lotteries, a form of gambling.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an industry body, has been advocating legalising betting in sports on the ground that the government can earn Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 19,000 crore from it every year. The tax rate on horse racing is quite lucrative; some states charge as much as 20% on the value of the bets.
“The revenue earned from betting can be utilised to augment the infrastructure for other sports and enhance tourist facilities,” Ficci said in a statement issued Tuesday. In the United Kingdom and China, it said, funds from sports betting are used to finance elite sports and train athletes.
Online betting on sports is also on the rise. That makes the activity easy to access. Its legal status is not clear, but no one has been caught or prosecuted for betting online.
The UK-based Betting Adda, a website that claims to offer “help and advice on sports betting, mainly cricket, to punters from all over the world”, says it gets 5,000 new registrations and 500,000 visitors every month from India. Its “help and advice” is for addicted gamblers fleeced by bookies who have no one to turn to.