Fri, Jul 5, 11:43am by Kevin Pitstock
In the wake of the spot fixing scandal in the IPL last month, Indians are discussing the idea of gambling reform. Instead of limiting the legal options of gambling interests in India, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is discussing the idea of going in the other direction. They want to study ways to legalise and tax gambling.
A recent seminar by the FICCI introduced the idea of an increase in gambling in India. The country’s current laws are based on a statute passed in 1867 during the days of the British Raj. The idea that a modern country would still rely on 19th century betting laws is astounding to many people.
At the moment, gambling on horse racing is legal in India. Most other forms of gambling are illegal. Despite that fact, about $52 billion is gambled each year by people in India. Gambling is big business in Hindustan, but the shadowy nature of the industry leaves the field open for manipulation such as what occurred in the spot fixing scandal. To many, the need to update the legal system is clear.
The cricket scandal has stirred the debate over gambling laws in India. Cricket is a national pastime–in the words of one journalist, like a “religion” to many Indians. The Indian Chamber of Commerce recently conducted a poll of 200 business owners. Seventy-four percent of the respondents said they believed “legalizing sports betting will help curb match fixing problem.”
The recent scandal involved cricket players in the Indian Premier League, a popular tournament. Police allege IPL players were signalling crooked betters in the crowd by tucking their towel into their trousers, flashing a neck-chain, or touching wrist-bands. So far, three players from the Rajasthan Royals have been arrested for their alleged role in spot fixing.
S.N. Srivastava, special commissioner of city police and the lead investigator in the cricket scandal is against legalisation, despite authorities’ inability to police illegal activity. “Betting is still not seen as a behaviour that enjoys social approval. Should we legalise it only because we are not able to enforce the ban fully? The country is not ready.”
National officials disagree with Mr Srivastava. To respond to calls for tough new laws, the Indian national government has promised new laws by August at the latest. Thus, Indians are beginning to struggle with the same issues people from other nations have faced: whether new laws should legalise and tax gambling, or whether agencies and officials should be given more authority to police anti-gambling laws and tamp down on illegal activity.
Whatever the case, Indian laws must be updated for the 21st century. The idea that 19th century legislation could anticipate online gambling is absurd. New laws are on the way, so it’s a matter of whether policy makers decide to expand supervision or allow greater (legal) decision making by their citizens. The best guess is a combination of both tactics will be employed, with some modes of gambling legalised and more law enforcement resources added for the gaming types which remains illegal will be strengthened.
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