Bollywood has emerged as one of the biggest players in the IPL. Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla are the faces of Kolkata Knight Riders, Preity Zinta cheers for Kings XI Punjab while Shilpa Shetty and husband Raj Kundra recently sunk their bucks into Rajasthan Royals.
Other stars that showed interest in purchasing teams included Salman Khan and Saif Ali Khan. There is big money involved here and so the returns too are big. But off the field, the league has given rise to one of the biggest betting rackets in the city.
Most of the betting syndicates are nicknamed by the area they operate from. There are hundreds of smaller players who also operate in a chain, which ends with the main bookie sitting in his den. A small area like Lokhandwala is rumoured to have about 40 wandering small time bookies. Even college students have started betting.
Says Anup Saxena, who’s been betting on cricket for about 15 years, “It’s easy money that attracts these college kids. They place bets for as low as Rs 500.” Apparently most of the bigger bookies have bases outside the city. Some of them operate from as far as Valsad in Gujarat.
“It’s risky to operate within city limits. Dahisar is also a hub these days,” asserts bookie Kalpesh Shah (name changed). Some of the biggest bookies are based in countries like England where betting is legal. Yet, many operate below the legal radar to avoid paying taxes.
In India, the diamond trading community of Surat, Gujarat, is one of the hottest betting hubs. Ditto the diamond market situated at Opera House. Bookies reveal that Rajasthan, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, parts of UP and certain districts of Maharashtra are heavily involved in placing bets.
So how much is the whole betting racket worth? “In Mumbai, the entire IPL betting is worth not less than Rs 100 crore per match. Surat could be about Rs 150 crore. The overall Indian market could be worth more than Rs 1,000 crore per match,” divulges Shah. Surprisingly, Rajesh Kadam (name changed), a senior Mumbai police officer, who has been involved in busting numerous betting dens, agrees with everything that Shah alleges, including the figures.
Sources reveal that though bookies have been arrested on numerous occasions, there have been no convictions so far. Bookies also record phone conversations of punters (people who bet money) to make sure they don’t retract their orders. In spite of this, it’s difficult to nail them because most change their mobile numbers every few days, make it difficult to track their operations.
How does betting work?
Bookies take bets only on recommendations. They will never entertain a new caller, no matter how big the bet is. The first bet is usually a small amount. The amount keeps rising only after a punter takes a bookie into confidence.Most bookies have people who deliver and pick up winnings or losses.A bookie doesn’t accept a bet if the caller’s voice sounds different.
Every bookie has an upper betting limit. He won’t accept bets if it exceeds his paying capabilities. Sometimes, if the amount on the bet is on the higher side, the bookie insures against a loss by betting the same amount with a bigger bookie. A difference of one paisa, over every rupee makes a huge difference at the end of the day.
In cricket, bets are placed on wins, losses, runs per ball, final scores of teams or batsmen, how a batsman will get out, number of overs that each team will bowl, man of the match, third umpire decisions.
Should betting be legalised?
Rohit Roy (TV Actor)
Yes, I guess betting should be legalised, since everybody bets in this country, and more so on cricket. It would help control the situation.
Manoj Bajpai (Actor)
Yes, betting should be legalised. Doing so will bring a lot of black money out in the open. Since it is happening anyway, it will make it more organised. If the l ottery is legal, why not betting?
Sanjay Gupta (Producer)
Various forms of betting are on. It makes sense for the government to legalise it, tax it, collect revenue and hopefully, put it to good use.
Mahesh Bhatt (Producer)
I think it should be legalised. Anything you forbid prospers. It’s called the forbidden fruit syndrome. It can make unnecessary criminals out of people seeking excitement. I have no position against it, but purists will still take up arms by asking how the state can allow it. Betting is rooted in our heritage. We should acknowledge it, recognise it and deal with it.
Arshad Warsi (Actor)
Yes, I think it should be legalised. It doesn’t harm anyone.
You can bet on it!
Sports, stocks, stars, monsoons, movies and even politics... Cricket is not the only thing the country puts its money on betting is not confined to IPL or national cricket matches. People bet even on Ranji Trophy games, English domestic cricket or whatever live cricket is being telecast on TV.
Football is the next big thing in the betting world and the World Cup attracts big money year after year. Scheduled for June, this could be the biggest money-spinner of the year, after the IPL. Says bookie Kalpesh Shah, “In Mumbai, everyone watches football, especially the World Cup. They don’t mind staying awake until the wee hours of the morning and earning some bucks at the same time.”
Next in line is tennis, which most punters don’t understand, but still don’t mind putting money on. Says punter Anup Saxena, “When there are fewer cricket matches, I put my money on whatever is shown ‘live’. It doesn’t matter whether I know the sport. I have betted on sports like badminton, hockey, table tennis, tennis and football.” Sporting events like the Olympics, National Games and the Commonwealth Games also attract punters.
Politics, monsoons and more
State and Lok Sabha elections are also big money spinners. Betting on the monsoons has gained popularity over the years thanks to our unreliable weather reports. Bookies nowadays take bets even on food grain prices. Says a senior police officer, “There are many people who are addicted to betting. They keep a track of grain prices and bet according to their highs and lows. I have seen people even bet on car numbers.”
Betting on horse racing is legal, but illegal horse satta (betting) thrives beyond the racecourse. Adds the officer, “People prefer betting illegally because profits come tax free.”
Other sources of betting
The stock market is a popular subject for punters. People place bets according to the rise and fall of traded stocks outside recognised exchanges like BSE and NSE. Bollywood movies have become part of the circus as well. First day collections, hits and flops, time of release are all up for betting.
TRPs of TV shows also feature on the list as do bets for government infrastructure projects. The Bandra-Worli Sea Link was under heavy betting just before it opened for traffic. Narendra Modi’s recent appearance at the Special Investigative Team inquiry was also used for making money. The list is endless.