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Legalise betting, say Indian lawyers

The Pakistan spot-fixing scandal has once again shone the spotlight on illegal betting in the sub-continent and reopened the debate on the legalisation of gambling in India.

cricket Updated: Sep 03, 2010 02:55 IST

The Pakistan spot-fixing scandal has once again shone the spotlight on illegal betting in the sub-continent and reopened the debate on the legalisation of gambling in India.

Since the Australian duo of Shane Warne and Mark Waugh admitted in 1998 to passing information to an Indian bookmaker during a 1994 tournament, cricket has seldom had a financial scandal without an Indian connection.

"The Indians bet on the weather, crops and even smaller and trivial things. Cricket is a religion here and India is the financial hub. So it's hardly a surprise that an India-Pakistan ODI draws bets worth $20 million," Mehra told Reuters.

"The only thing is that here betting is not legal which is why there is little government control over the industry."

Legal gambling in India is confined to horse-racing while casinos are allowed only in a couple of states.

CRIMINAL ACTIVITY

Illegal syndicates are thriving, however, and Indian media estimates put the amount bet on last year's Indian Premier League (IPL) at $427 million.

A Delhi trial court judge on Tuesday said gambling on cricket should be legalised to prevent the spoils being spent on criminal activity and to generate revenue for the government.

Former India cricket chief Inderjit Bindra has long been a supporter of legalisation for similar reasons and to help the fight against match-fixing.

"If betting is legalised, it will be in the interest of the government as not only will it eliminate match-fixing but also earn states revenue in crores (tens of millions)," Bindra, now an adviser at the International Cricket Council (ICC), said two years ago. "My personal view is that if you want anything to be regulated, it has to be legalised."

The cost to the image of cricket from the involvement of Indian bookmakers in the manipulation of results has been huge.

LEGALISED BETTING INDUSTRY

Columnist Ashok Malik, who comments on politics and the business of sport, does not subscribe to the view that legalising betting would end the problem.

"People should not confuse illegal betting with spot-fixing. Spot-fixing is as much a possibility even in a legalised betting industry," he said.

"It's not legality, the problem starts when bookies try to get prior knowledge of events and are ready to share their profit with the cricketers to fix incidents."

"Having a legalised betting industry is not the solution. It's like owning a hotel fulfilling all the legal criteria and then running a prostitution racket there." Malik does, however, believe that gambling on the nation's favourite sport should be legalised.

"When lotteries and gambling on horse racing is legal, it is ridiculous not to legalise cricket betting." Mehra believes the Indian government should set up a commission to regulate the industry. "Legalising betting is important, for this is no secret that everyonewants to bet on cricket," he said.