Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur, who is also a former president of the Board of Cricket Control in India, on Thursday suggested legalising betting in India, according to reports by Outlook and Business Line.
Speaking at an event organised by ICICI Securities, Thakur reportedly said that “betting can be an effective tool to curb match fixing” and the possibility of legalising it needs to be considered. He said it would help in “monitoring people allegedly involved in fixing” and contain “unholy and corrupt” practices such as match-fixing, in addition to bringing in tax revenue.
Thakur was reportedly responding to a suggestion by Nilesh Shah, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Company and part-time member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. Shah said that Indians have a natural instinct to bet and gamble, suggesting that they be legalised. “If we look at the problem of match-fixing, then the trends in betting can give us leads on whether something unholy is happening or not. Betting can become a potent tool to stop fixing,” Shah said, according to Outlook.
In January 2017, Thakur was sacked from the post of BCCI president by the Supreme Court for failing to comply with its orders. Thakur has been closely connected with cricket. Apart from serving as BCCI president for two years, he was also the president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) and played a key role in building the Dharamshala Cricket Stadium.
Thakur’s comments come amidst heightened scrutiny of online gambling and gaming websites. Though this scrutiny — coming from state governments and high courts — has not specifically focused on sports-related gambling, any change in the regulatory regime of sports betting is likely to impact gambling activities in other areas as well.
Regulation of sports betting
In 2018, the Law Commission had recommended that sports betting and gambling be legalised and heavily regulated. The Commission’s report was triggered by the Supreme Court which, while considering the Lodha Committee report which examined Indian cricket administration, had asked the Commission to examine the issue.
After the Law Commission published its recommendations, Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor proposed a private members’ bill to prevent sports fraud and regulate online sports betting. For online sports gaming and betting, The Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018, had proposed the formation of a commission to oversee the functions of online gaming websites, track illegal online sports gaming and betting patterns. The bill addressed only online sports betting, leaving gambling activities in relation to non-sporting events out of its ambit.