Should Bets in Sports be Legal in India?
Every edition of IPL has seen reports emerging of huge amounts of money gambled away on betting in India. This year the Delhi and Mumbai police have successfully been able to lay their hands on some players and other bigwigs including a large number of bookies from all over the country. At first sight they seem to be having foolproof cases. The alleged involvement of a player like Sreesanth and and one of the owners of CSK amongst others has brought to light the fact that being rich is no bar from indulging in betting.
It is human nature to try and earn as much as possible by quick methods. It makes it all the more challenging and interesting if there is an element of risk involved. The more the risk the more the suspense and the more the heightened pleasure of winning. Games of chance where outcome cannot be predicted accurately are found more attractive by gamblers.
In Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos in USA, thousands of people can be found hooked to slot machines trying to multiply their stakes, knowing fully well that the chances of their losing is far more greater than their winning. An odd person does win a fair amount and that keeps the desire to win alive in all the other players. Besides slot machines, there are a variety of other games available in casinos like card games, dice games and so on. The idea is to entice the players to play showing them green pastures in an out of this world environment.
In India, gambling is not legal. It is legal in many countries notably England. As is well known gambling is a basic instinct of a majority of persons. A large number of them are able to overcome their urge because of their strong value system amongst other reasons including lacking courage or being risk averse. However their is still a significant number who would like to gamble for the sheer thrill of it and also because they can afford to lose a designated sums of money. However it is easier said than done. The more one loses the more is the urge to recover it and the cycle goes on. The problem arises when poor people join in to make a killing to improve their earnings and in the bargain end up losing their meagre earnings and bring misery to themselves and their families.
However bigger crime and cheating is done by the rich and powerful and the betting syndicates when they resort to fixing the outcome about which only they know and for everyone else the outcome is still unpredictable. Thus when a player agrees to give away agreed to runs in a particular over it is known to the involved bookie who can then take bets accordingly and make a huge killing at the expense of the unsuspecting betting public.
It is to be understood here that just as those who bet are in it for easy money the betting syndicates are not there for social service. They are also in it to make money and in huge amounts.They have both the human and financial resources and also the clout to create fear when necessary. They can ensure making huge sums of money when they can fix the outcome as is alleged to have happened in spot fixing in the recent IPL tournament. For this it is necessary that they rope in willing players who will do as per their bidding. These willing players will be handsomely rewarded by the betting syndicates.
The whole activity of betting is illegal and therefore it is underground. It is spread throughout the country and abroad. It is carried out with help of latest
electronic gadgets and a huge network is executing it. The betting syndicates are powerful gangs who have the money power and are also situated as is claimed outside the country in Pakistan and Dubai etc. All in all it is very difficult for the police to monitor it and then to stop it. Occasionally they do manage to achieve a breakthrough. The betting does not stop and continues unabated every year in every IPL. In fact the IPL is ideal for the bookies. In a matter of say four hours 240 balls are to be bowled for equal number of unpredictable outcomes plus other combinations like who will score how many runs, who will take how many wickets, who will take how many catches, which team will win, by what margin and so on. In fact the IPL is a betting paradise and no doubt both, the bettor and the bookies want equally to make money under the guidance and fixing activities of the ever powerful betting syndicates sitting abroad beyond the arm of Indian legal jurisdiction.
What is the way out? One school of thought is advocating that betting should be made legal in the country. By doing so it will no longer be underground and can be suitably regulated. By making betting illegal it has gone underground and is controlled and run by shady mafia characters. When it becomes legal the stigma of indulging in an illegal and therefore looked down upon activity will vanish. Bets can be placed on any type of speculative activity like sporting games, election results, weather forecasts etc. It will give a legitimate oppurtunity to the interested citizens to participate in speculative activities. After all, are not the stock market and forward trading in commodities legalised examples of speculative "games" permitted by the State.
The government can earn revenue through taxing the earnings of both the winners and the betting companies. It is not my case that legalising will stop fixing but it will surely go a long way in curbing it. as no longer will the underworld be running the betting operations and thus there ability to influence outcomes will be greatly reduced. In England there are prestigous betting companies who are patronised by all, in a perfectly legal manner. Companies like Ladbrooks and Coral are world famous.
We in India often chose to take a moral attitude in all pleasurable activities. For example there is prohibiton in Gujarat right from independence perhaps. This has resulted in a huge underground network of suppliers in the State who can get you any brand, at a cost of course. The police have not been able to eradicate it and are alleged to be in fact earning by allowing it to carry on. The State is losing significant revenue unlike other States. But the farce goes on, as now vested interests want prohibition to continue. In the earstwhile Bombay state also prohibition was introduced in the nineteen fifties. Before it was removed after a few years, it had given rise to an underworld don namely Varadrajan. In USA also in the nineteen thirties prohibition was introduced and the outcome was stenghthening of the mafia gangs and Al Capone like gangsters.
In cricket, betting is not legal and thus we are seeing betting gangs earning huge profits and using it for carrying out nefarious activities against our country. It is therefore time that betting was legalized in India and it be carried out openly. It will generate handsome income for the government and provide jobs to thousands of persons. Betting turnover only on IPL is estimated to be more than Rs 20,000 crore and all types of betting could be touching anually a figure of ,say, Rs 2,00,000 crore or more. Imagine the financial potential of such turnover in revenues to the government even at a moderate taxation rate of 10 or 20 %. The legalising will put the mafia gangs out of business which is good for the games and the watching and the betting public.
Will the powers to be, bite the bullet and free the IPL and other speculative activities from the clutches of te underworld. Time they did so and use police for controlling crime elsewhere.
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