The arrest of three poster boys of Pakistani cricket for spot-fixing has brought the debate over making gambling legal in India to the centre stage.
With memories of the 2000 match-fixing scandal still afresh in the country, legal luminaries strongly advocate legalising betting and want a strong legislation to punish those who are found indulging in match-fixing.The 2000 scandal led to the registration of criminal cases against the bookies under the Indian Penal Code that bans gambling. While the case gathers dust in courts, the cricketers found indulging in it were banned from playing.
Delhi High Court advocate Rahul Mehra, who fought a legal battle against BCCI, says the Board had for so many years denied match-fixing was prevalent in our country. "CBI's 2000 report following the scandal had clearly stated that the Board could have stopped it," Mehra says.
According to him, the government must immediately step in to legalise betting because match-fixing cannot be eradicated, but only curbed. "BCCI too should support this legislation as it would curb any match-fixing. If we can legalise horse-racing, why can't betting in other sports be legalised?"
Supreme Court advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan agrees. "Horse racing is a good example of how gaming and wagering has been a revenue generator. The five prime turfs across the country - Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata - generate revenue of more than R100 crore in a single day's racing. It is generated both through the official tote of the club as well as through the bookies who have been granted permission. Fifty per cent of the revenue goes to the government."
He explains India too could have legalised gaming centres, similar to Ladbrokes and William Hill in England. "Government should levy tax on the game and utilise it to encourage other sports. This would also exclude generation of black money."
Mehra feels legal gambling would also keep any match-fixing under check. "Once it happens, bookies would come in the open to register themselves and there would be complete transparency in the system. An authorised agency could be appointed to monitor the game to find out if there is an illogical fluctuation or not," says Mehra.
He further adds that the ICC should scrap the anti-corruption unit, and instead, have undercover agents and an independent investigating agency. According to him, the agency should be empowered to search, summon and even arrest a suspect. "It should be autonomous and capable of probing even any icon of the cricket world," Mehra says.