By Iqbal Johal
The positives of legalising sports betting in India outweigh the negatives, according to an Indian gaming lawyer.
Co-Head of Media Entertainment and Gaming Practice at Nishith Desai Associates, Ranjana Adhikari, spoke to Gambling Insider about where sports betting in India stands today, with the biggest hurdle its link to match-fixing in sport.
Despite sports betting in India being deemed illegal, the estimated size of the betting black market was worth $130bn in 2018, according to statistics from service network KPMG.
However, horseracing betting was made legal by the Supreme Court in 1996 due to being based on skill – with skill games allowed under The Public Gambling Act. Adhikari used this example as a reason in support of finally legalising sports betting in the cricket-mad nation.
She said: "The decision to legalise horseracing, in essence the court is saying the underlying sport is a game of skill, therefore betting on it should fall outside the prohibitions of the law. I can apply the same logic to betting on cricket or any other sport.
"The biggest positive to legalising sports betting would be recognising that there’s already a black market out there so if you legalise it, you bring in revenue to the exchequer.
"There’s money that can be brought in through taxation, both in the form of gaming and corporate tax. There will be a proper tracking system, in terms of seeing the source of funds, which will help. It would also be a very positive step to protecting the player.
"You need to be an ostrich to not realise it’s already existing; the underground market has grown massively in the past seven years. The taxation being lost and the number of people who are already participating and run the risk of losing money, you’re not able to protect them or have things in place such as responsible gaming. Legislating will bring in all of this."
In terms of negatives, Adhikari mentions India has a perception problem with sports betting, which has been linked to match-fixing.
The biggest example of match-fixing in India was the IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket scandal of 2013, where three Indian cricketers, including ICC World Cup winner Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, were arrested and banned from the sport, accused of fixing matches.
She added: "Somewhere there is an underlying connection between sports betting and match-fixing, at least in terms of perception, which is why the authorities in general have been extremely anxious towards sports betting as a concept.
"An actual con to legalising it could be the manner of legislating it. If you have extremely onerous conditions involved, in terms of who can participate and you make it an elitist group or make licenses very onerous, I think you’re going to make the problem bigger instead of trying to resolve it; because it would create more chaos in the market.
"What needs to happen has to be very thought-out and the criteria set out has to be conducive enough for the offering of the business in a very legitimate fashion."
You can read more about the sports betting landscape in India when our Sports Betting Focus magazine goes live.