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Report No. 276

B. Illegal Commerce

8.19 A total ban on gambling and betting activities would not completely eradicate the problem. Rather, it would drive it straight to the black-market200. This in turn would result in making it harder to monitor such illegal activities, it would also render the helpless out of the protection of the law and at the mercy of loan-sharks and crime-lords.

It would further result in crime syndicates profiting from unregulated gambling activities creating a vicious circle of proliferation of illegal activities and commerce. Needless to say, illegal betting causes substantial monetary loss to the economy, with profits escaping the purview of taxation, and also increases the circulation of black money in the market. In a nutshell, such illegal commerce so conducted, causes damage to the economy of the nation.

8.20 The issue of Online Gambling has further been worsened by the rise in popularity and ease of availability of VC, a form of electronic money. Having taken the form of a parallel e-economy, gambling with VC, pushes even the Online Gambling market underground, and very often, out of the reach of the law enforcement authorities. The Reserve Bank of India by way of Circular dated 6th April outlawed the use of VC201. The circular was challenged by the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

The Supreme Court while entertaining the petition refused to grant any interim relief to the petitioner vide Order dated 3 July 2018202. Nonetheless the size of global market dealing with VC in Gambling is evident by the recent case of the Hong Kong police, where they caught people using online portals including some instant messaging applications to gamble with the help of VC of the likes of Bitcoin. The Philippine Gaming Regulator, PAGCOR is facing a similar problem, losing millions to illegal and unregulated gambling every year203.

8.21 Indian sports, particularly cricket, have been most adversely affected by illegal betting and gambling activities. To increase their chances of winning the bet, people engage in corrupt practices viz. bribing individual players to perform poorly and sometimes entire teams to throw away the games. Contrary to 'match-fixing', where the end result of the game is pre-decided, 'spot-fixing' or 'sessions betting'204 entails illegal activity in sports regarding a specific aspect of the game unrelated to the final result of the game.

The bet is won if and when the event (for example, a batsman hitting a six within the following 'x' number of deliveries or a bowler claiming a wicket in a particular over etc.) takes place. Huge sums of money poured in these matches exacerbate this problem.

8.22 The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Department of Sports enforced the "National Sports Development Code of India, 2011", which aims at preventing betting and gambling in sports. The Ministry has recently appointed a committee to draft an updated version of the Code, which is expected to be published soon205.

8.23 News reports206 suggest that bets worth INR 1,300 crore (approx.) are placed on every One Day International cricket match that the Indian team plays. For example, in 2015, the Indian cricket team played 21 One Day International matches, which brings the total betting figure to INR 27,300 crore (approx.).

8.24 In the year 2000, the Delhi Police unearthed a match-fixing scandal involving reputed players. The Committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice R.M. Lodha, was set up to investigate the spot-fixing incidents that took place in the IPL. The Committee suggested that regulated betting should be permitted to curb the menace of match-fixing.

According to Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Chairman, International Cricket Council, Anti-Corruption Unit, it is easier to monitor illegal betting activity in a regulated market207. If a licensed entity is caught rigging games, its business would be ruined, both legally as well as in terms of customer base. There would be greater transparency when betting is done in the open markets, thereby preserving the integrity of sports by reducing the chances of rigged outcomes.

8.25 In May 2018, a TV channel has revealed that corruption in sports, particularly cricket is more rampant than ever over a period of 18 months. The news agency has documented various evidences for the same, including tapes of multiple meeting with a "fixer" who is part of a crime syndicate in Mumbai. The Investigation report further points to match-fixing in various matches, specifically matches between India and England at Chennai in December 2016 and India and Australia at Ranchi in March, 2017.

The documentary has the "fixer" admitting to have paid millions of dollars to bribe players in the world's top Test teams and that such a payment is often made through a middleman or cricket official. The Report and all evidences have been passed onto the global governing body for cricket, the International Cricket Council, which commented, that it was taking Al Jazeera's findings very seriously and has launched an investigation on the evidences provided208.

8.26 Therefore, it is obvious that betting and corruption in sports, especially cricket, is rampant throughout the world. It has reached a point, where the State machinery is finding it difficult to completely curb it. Guided by this realisation, one possible way out would be to legalise sports betting209, which would go a long way in regulating and controlling the same, while also earning huge revenues by taxing it. In fact, Countries like Australia, United Kingdom, South Africa, Sri Lanka and New Zealand have taken a step in this direction, legalising and regulating betting in sports.

Legal Framework - Gambling and Sports betting including Cricket in India Back

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