In 2010, a few years after it legalised online sports betting, Sikkim issued three provisional online gambling licenses and ten LOIs (Letters of Intent).
The idea was to usher in India's answer to Ladbrokes. Many came forward. But none of those websites have gone live yet. The reason is simple: they are afraid of illegal bookies.
“Whoever came forward to grab those licenses came under pressure from betting syndicates. If people are able to places bets online, bookies and fixers will lose out. Playwin, which already operates online lottery, too was keen on venturing into this. But it is also scared,” explained Shahdeb Dasgupta, the industrialist who played a vital role in Sikkim legalising online betting, told HT.
In 2008, the Sikkim state assembly passed the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act that now allows legal online sports betting. Poker is a legitimate sport in 23 Indian states.
West Bengal passed the Prize and Distribution Act that legalised poker and rummy in the state way back in 1957. In short, provisions exist in this country, offering a legitimate sports betting platform.
The internet is the biggest forum for sports betting, especially in England, Australia and the United States. In England, the cricket Board allows betting agency Ladbrokes to set in-stadia kiosks.
Reeling in the aftermath of the spot-fixing scandal, the time has perhaps come for other Indian states to follow Sikkim's example.
“With such a Gazetted Act in place (when a proposal becomes a law after approval by the President) and passed by a democratic state, the whole argument of whether sports betting should be legalised becomes irrelevant — because the law is already there. Anyone who wants to promote sports betting can register a company in Sikkim — and people from around the country can participate in legal sports betting, not just in local sports but even international cricket,” Dasgupta said.
Remember, sports betting falls under state jurisdiction. Therefore, though the sports ministry can propose a bill, sports betting cannot be legalised nationally.
It is for individual states to act. Now, Manipur too is following Sikkim's example. “We will be launching a website (Sikkim Online Gaming) soon. And people from anywhere in the country can place bets. Even Manipur will provide such a platform soon.
Maybe those who are keen to place sports bets can register on our website instead of going to shady places and deal with crooks, “added Dasgupta.