After struggling for a very long time, finally, the Law Commission is all set to legalize gambling and betting on sports including cricket. The board is left with no other option as no matter how strict rules they implement, they merely couldn’t curb betting or other illegal activities related to sports. The panel will soon submit its report to Supreme Court so that new laws can be framed to regulate betting on sports in the country and also to keep a close eye on it.
Why legalising is important?
The Chairman of Law Commission of India, says that by the panel’s findings the government would be able to stop betting on sports as an unregulated and illegal activity. The commission was tasked by the Supreme Court in July 2016, to examine whether betting on cricket should be regulated and so that a set of laws is framed to enable that. “Online betting is impossible to prevent, as it requires proper regulation and research and even then, many bettors are hard to track via IP addresses. We must have a severe law,” LCI chairman Justice BS Chauhan told media.
However, Chauhan also added that the commission’s report is yet to be ready, but so far its findings have led to the view that to stop betting on sports, which is an unregulated and illegal activity, the government should legalize sports betting in the country.
The panel believes that statutory but strict regulation of gambling and betting would reduce illegal practices that add in the black money. If betting on sports is legalized, then the government would be the one to reap all its benefits as it would bring in more revenues and more revenues would bring more employment, and given the current status of the unemployed people in the nation, a job is in high demand.
“If it is impossible to prevent such activities completely, strictly in the country then regulating these illegal activities remains the only viable option for the government. Regulated gambling would ensure detection of fraud and money laundering,” says the report.
In the board’s opinion, unregulated gambling and betting currently bring in about 13,000 crores on the table. This is one of the significant sources of black-money, and this untraceable money is used for funding terrorist and other anti-national activities, or it is kept in a foreign bank.
The past instances:
Following the spot-fixing and betting scandal that took place in the 2013 season of IPL, the apex court had ordered the panel to examine the issue of sports betting and gambling thoroughly. The cricketers who were involved were S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, the then acting BCCI president N. Sreenivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan along with several other bookies detained in connection with the scam.
The rules to be followed:
The Law Commission has made it clear that those who run gambling business and sports betting should have a proper license, the money transactions should be cashless, and gamblers and bettors must compulsorily link their Aadhaar and PAN cards.
In a statement released by the Law Commission, “To protect the helpless class of people from the ill-effects of these practices and also to enhance transparency, gambling and betting activities should be linked with the Aadhaar Card or PAN Card of the individuals and operators.”
One of the benefits of going cashless while gambling and betting would help concerned authorities to keep a track on every single penny transacted in this connection. However, in cash transactions in this industry should entail penal consequences under relevant provisions of law as it is untraceable.”
While preparing the report, the panel is studying the same practices in other countries. Even after recommending that the businesses should be licensed, the commission notified that match-fixing and sports fraud would be considered as criminal offenses.
Present Scenario of gambling and betting in India
In India, most states are against gambling or betting, which even includes lotteries. According to the Betting and Gambling law, games of chance or luck are forbidden but games of skill in which bettors have a thorough knowledge of the sport at the time of placing a bet, have no restriction whatsoever.
The reason for this distinction came because horse racing is the only sport in India in which betting is legal as it is regarded as a game of skill. Meaning, that betting in all other sports, mostly cricket, given its biggest popularity in India, has thrived behind a wall of secrecy. The commission is likely to suggest to the government that “games of skill” and “games of luck” should be more sharply defined, said experts.
The power of legislating gambling and betting in the country solely rests on the shoulders of the Parliament, so the panel feels that the parliament should enact a model law to regulate these activities. They even recommended that to “strictly regulate” these activities, the panel wants to also formulate a rule on the number of times an individual can gamble and bet during a specific period.
The new rules to be included:
However, the commission is banning children from gambling and betting under the age of 21. It suggested that gambling would have two sub categories under it recognized as “Proper gambling”, “Small gambling,” depending on the bets amount involved. Both the “Proper gambling” and “Small Gambling” would be determined by the stakes value involved in the betting. High stakes would only be for the rich. For poorer groups, “small gambling” with small stakes would be allowed.
The commission wants the businesses of bookies and punters to be taxed under the relevant laws. For legalization of these activities, the panel also feels “suitable amendments” need to be made in Foreign Exchange Regulations and FDI policy.
Why did SC order examination of the issue?
Gambling and betting are illegal, but laws to deal with them are not clear. States can enact their laws, but there is no uniformity.
Most of these laws pertain to physical gambling and not online or virtual gambling:
Section 67 of the Information Technology Act vaguely prohibits online transmission and publication of materials. In 2015, a Delhi court, while discharging cricketer S Sreesanth and 35 others in the IPL spot-fixing case, said cricket betting was not an offense.