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Shashi Tharoor: Regulating online sports gaming can increase revenues and weed out black money

By Namita Singh and Sneha Johari

Last week, we reported about Congress MP Shashi Tharoor introducing a private member bill called ‘The Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018’ in the winter session of Lok Sabha last month. Tharoor told MediaNama that this bill seeks to protect the integrity of sports by dealing with issues of sports fraud, while regulating the online market at the same time. He said, “Sports betting is a State subject, but online sports gaming comes under the jurisdiction of the Parliament. Therefore, my Bill deals with the twin issues of sports fraud as well as online sports gaming.”

In his opinion, it is important to regulate online gaming in India because it is a booming sector, and regulating can help in increasing the revenue for the State and weed out the generation of black money. He cited the 276th Report of the Law Commission of India, which states that the present market is estimated to be worth $360 million, and expected to rise to $1 billion by 2021.

Elaborating on the importance of the bill, Tharoor said, “There is no statute in India which expressly criminalizes sports fraud or manipulation of sporting events. This was highlighted by the Trial Court which delivered its judgment on the 2013 IPL matching fixing allegations: it pointed out the limitation in the law by stating that the allegations against the IPL players ‘pertains to betting and match-fixing, which does not fit in any penal statute.’”

The Bill explained

The Bill “penalizes various forms of sports fraud, including sharing inside information, bribery, misrepresentation about an athlete’s qualifications or manipulation of a sports result, including the simulation of a predetermined sequence of events irrespective of whether the outcome is actually altered or not,” Tharoor said.

He further added that the bill covers three aspects:

  • foreign nationals who commit these offences on Indian soil
  • Indian citizens who commit these offences on Indian soil and
  • Indian citizens engaging in these activities in foreign countries

‘Online sports gaming needs oversight mechanism’

Explaining the need for the bill, Tharoor said that its policies needs to be framed based on efficacy and not the precepts of majoritarian morality. “The bill,” he said, “also recognized that the present approach to sports gaming is flawed as the market approach of banning such activities has only driven it into the black market and promoted criminality.” And therefore, online sports gaming should be allowed as long as there is an oversight mechanism through a regulatory body that can control the money flow and activities of those in the field, he added.

On being asked about the need of a new regulatory framework for online gaming, Tharoor said that, “Only a few States have enacted a regulatory framework to enable online gaming (the other states prohibit it) … There is no consolidated approach at the national level,” pointing to the Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion of Online Games of Skill Act, 2015 and Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act 2008.

Why the Bill now?

The bill comes in the backdrop of a report by the Law Commission, which had called for regulation and legalisation of sports betting and gambling to bring more transparency in the betting market. The Commission had also recommended that sports betting and gambling should be cashless to deal with issues of tax evasion.

In 2016, the Justice Lodha committee had also recommended the legalisation of betting in cricket. Note that Tharoor is associated with cricket, have written book on the sport (called Shadows Across the Playing Field) and is also associated with Kochi Tuskers, which played in the Indian Premier League.

Read an explanation of what the Bill contains here:

https://www.medianama.com/2019/01/223-shashi-tharoor-introduces-bill-to-regulate-the-online-gambling-what-about-regulating-promotions/

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