Three years ago, Kartik Nair (name changed) placed his first bet on an Indian Twenty20 league match. He doesn't remember the specifics but Nair, now in his second year of college, is already a betting veteran. He interacts with bookies, helps friends to place bets and handles large amounts of money when he isn't betting himself.
In the past week, a boy was murdered after he was kidnapped for ransom to pay off betting debts. While cricketers are questioned for their links to bookies, the racket is ingrained among college student networks across the city.
It’s not as straightforward as finding a bookie to place a bet. Students said it starts innocuously, sometimes even among youngsters in Class 9 and 10, as minor betting between friends. After that, through seniors, they are sucked deeper.
A sizeable number of kids from Delhi's high-profile schools, mostly from classes 10, 11 and 12, bet on matches. Easy connectivity through smart phones, soaring pocket money and the sheer thrill of betting fuels the habit in schools.
“The T20 league is the most popular sport in our school with everyone discussing the previous day’s matches. There are close to 10 students in our class who have bet on current matches. Finding out about the odds is fairly easy through the internet. My class mates bet through a former student,” said a class 11 student of an ‘international’ school in Delhi who bet during the last edition but was discouraged by his parents.
“It's through networking and seniors who know people,” said a student from a South Mumbai College who used to bet. “If you want to bet, you approach a friend who you know is into betting. Bookies do not give out their contacts to many people.”
Students don't always rely on bookies though, with online avenues including an android app Bet-droid and website www.betset.com doing away with the middleman. To do this, students set up accounts in foreign locations and place bets through friends or relatives abroad.
Students could well be placing bets between Rs 500 and lakhs of rupees, bankrolling their guilty pleasures through pocket money, borrowings and money cajoled from parents.
For students, it is easy money as the lure of the lucre sucks them deeper. “It's a good way to earn money, and you're addicted as long as you are winning,” said Nair.
According to students in Delhi, spot-betting is not very popular with them. “Most students bet on the outcome of the game, highest run-scorer and the highest wicket-taker. Some may bet on the number of sixes hit,” said a class 10 student from a posh Gurgaon school. The returns have left most students facing losses of at least 20-30%.