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Boom time for Bikaner bookies

india Updated: Nov 21, 2008 01:00 IST
Srinand Jha

The odds are even on the possibility of Sheila Dixit retaining her job as Chief Minister after the assembly elections in Delhi.

Gamblers in Bikaner, popularly acknowledged as India’s betting or satta capital, are giving her a one-for-one odds. So, if you bet Rs 100 on her retaining her job and she does, you stand to get back Rs 200. The odds are the same if you bet on her losing.

Unlike for Dixit, bookies in this dusty town’s satta bazaar — 325 km northwest of the capital, Jaipur — are giving low odds for Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, reflecting a higher chance of his winning. If you bet Rs 100 on his returning to power and he does, you stand to get back only Rs 125 or a gain of just Rs 25.

In Madhya Pradesh, incumbent Shivraj Singh Chouhan is reckoned by punters to have a higher than 50 per cent chance of retaining his chair: bet Rs 100 on him and you’ll get back Rs 180. But if you bet the same amount on him losing, you stand to get back Rs 200, a gain of Rs 100. That is, of course, if he loses.

In Rajasthan, Bikaner’s bookies expect a hung assembly after the polls on December 4. Of the 200 seats, they’re predicting 90 seats for the Congress, 85 for the BJP and 25 for others.

The BJP, they say, could still form the government with the support of Independents or the BSP. However, both Ashok Gehlot of the Congress and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje command one-for-one odds — the same as Sheila Dixit — of becoming chief minister.

Though preoccupied right now with the elections, Bikaner’s bookies of course encourage betting on a host of other forthcoming outcomes too. The business is huge, and wholly illegal. Thus, few are willing to discuss it on record. It is estimated that there are around 100 bookies, including 30 big-time operators, whose annual turnover on international cricket matches alone is around Rs 75,000 crore. Election betting is reckoned to have an even higher turnover but bookies are unwilling to hazard an estimate on its size.

Who are the people who place bets? Punters include local shopowners, sweet and namkeen sellers as well as other traders but their day jobs appear to be mere diversions for them. The real dhanda or betting action typically begins in the afternoon when bookies, nondescript looking men, start moving in the streets, running their books and taking bets.