Over 250 arrested in Chhattisgarh crackdown on betting app: Police

Updated on Oct 24, 2022 01:37 PM IST

Police said the online application was launched by a group of people who operate out of Dubai. Chhattisgarh was one of the states where they opened centres in remote areas to lure people to download its app and place bets.

The Durg district police called its action against agents of the online app a surgical strike against the betting app(Twitter/oliceDurg)
The Durg district police called its action against agents of the online app a surgical strike against the betting app(Twitter/oliceDurg)

RAIPUR: The Chhattisgarh police have arrested over 250 people over the past month on allegations that they were operating centres in the state to lure people to indulge in online betting via an online application Mahadev, police said.

Police said the online application was launched by a group of people who operate out of Dubai. Chhattisgarh was one of the states where they opened centres in remote areas to lure people to download its app and place bets.

“They opened around 30 centres, mostly in Chhattisgarh, and more than 200 crores of transactions happen from each of these centres,” a police officer said, adding that 258 people have been arrested in 25 cases so far. He added the application has close to four million downloads and most bets were in the range of 1,000 to 5,000.

Police teams in three districts, Raipur, Bhilai and Bilaspur, are investigating cases linked to the online application.

OPERATION

Durg district superintendent of police (SP) Abhishek Pallava said that anyone who wanted to a centre or branch of Mahadev App needed to deposit about 20 lakh after which they got the authority to become ‘admins’ for unique IDs given to their customers.

The branches then hired agents to lure customers and allocated them unique IDs. Apart from offline installation of the app, the online mode was also available through a missed call on a particular number or through messaging apps, Whatsapp and Signal, officials said.

“Agents got 6% to 8% commission on the bets placed, apart from salary, and the operators up to 20%,” the SP said, adding that it was promoted as a way to earn “quick money.”

MONEY DISTRIBUTION

A Chhattisgarh police officer said those who place bets mostly made payments mostly through UPI-based payment systems such as Paytm and Phonepe, which are linked with the several bank accounts of the application operators.

“Many of these bank accounts have been opened in the name of poor people by using their Aadhaar and Pan cards. A person gets 5,000 for giving photocopies of the documents to open the bank account,” the officer said.

“More than 50 corporate Mahadev bank accounts and more than 10,000 accounts of people who have put bets on apps are under scanner,” said Raipur SP Prashant Agarwal.

A Chhattisgarh police crime branch official said all bank accounts have been frozen. “We are also initiating action against those who have opened corporate bank accounts,” the official said.

Aggarwal conceded that the police action was unlikely to deter the group of people behind the online application or its agents. “Firstly, betting is a bailable offence and secondly, the internet being an open space we cannot initiate action against the application as betting is legal in many countries,” he said.

Officers said a large number of people who placed bets on the online application were from the middle class. A businessman who bets through the Mahadev application said it was an “addiction”. “There are certain locations in the city, where we met almost everyday and bet,” he said.

Gambling is prohibited under Public Gambling Act, 1867, but the law is not considered effective, particularly to curb online betting. This has prompted some states such as Tamil Nadu to enact more stringent versions.

“Since gambling and betting is a state subject, Chhattisgarh can enact legislation to regulate and prohibit online gambling as done by states such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu. Through this, the state can build a strong legal mechanism to restrict the acts of online gambling,” said Abhinav K Shukla, a law professor in Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.

He added that the central government should bring online gaming apps under the purview of Information Technology Act to prevent gambling. “The online gambling segment is not expressly regulated by the IT Act. But, the IT ministry can ban websites and app which facilitates online gambling. I don’t know whether it would be effective or not,” he said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    State Correspondent for Chhattisgarh. Reports Maoism, Politics, Mining and important developments from the state. Covered all sorts of extremism in Central India. Reported from Madhya Pradesh for eight years.

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