India’s top law panel is examining whether betting on sports and gambling in casinos and other places can be legalised.
Though the Law Commission of India is yet to make up its mind, sources said that a draft gambling act is “under serious consideration”.
Legalising casinos and other such gambling places could regulate an informal industry worth Rs 300,000 crore and also bring in thousands of crores in revenue, it is estimated.
Last year, the Supreme Court had asked the commission to study the possibility of betting on cricket.
Cricket in India has been blighted by spot fixing scandals involving promises of huge sums of money by cartels involved in illegal betting. Several countries allow betting on sports.
Gambling on the internet is hard to stop, commission sources said, and a law will mean regulating the sector and allowing casinos and betting on cricket and other sports.
“It (betting and gambling) is already happening through the internet and it is hard to stop in the absence of an updated law,” a member of the commission said.
Last month, commission chairman Justice BS Chauhan flew to London to attend a three-day conference of organisers and regulators of such events that included the international casino conference, sessions on lotteries and bet markets. He met regulators from different countries where betting and casinos are lawful and has asked for their inputs to come up with an India specific model.
“There are moral and ethical dimensions involved that have kept gambling and betting illegal so far. We have to see if betting can encourage match fixing. The regulatory frame work will have to be pretty strict,” a source said.
The Indian Contract Act treats an agreement that is based on wager (or chance) as void. Allowing betting or gambling will have to mean first amending the provisions of the act.
FICCI, which was one of the partners in the London conference held from February 6 to 8, has been rooting for regulating the sector. In a report on the subject in 2013, the industry body suggested that there is an informal Rs 300,000 annual betting industry in India despite the ban.
If a tax is imposed on the industry, the government can earn Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 19,000 crore every year, it said.
“Regulation and taxation can yield large amounts of revenue for the exchequer and check crime,” Maj Rajpal Singh, FICCI director told HT.