Sporting events such as cricket and hockey games are celebrated like festivals in India. But betting on the games is still not legal according to the current legal situation. This could change with a recent initiative by Indian Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor.
With “The Sports Bill”, Tharoor wants to bring the unregulated sports betting market in India into the 21st century and legalise online and land-based betting.
The South Asian country, which is made up of various states with different ethnic backgrounds, has never been able to establish a unified jurisdiction allowing online indian betting sites due to its religious and political differences.
No clear legislation
Similar to Germany, gambling in India is also a matter for the country. This means that only the federal states are allowed to draft and pass binding legislation on gambling.
Regulations at state level concern at best the prohibition of the event and participation in an illegal gambling, which can be punished with a fine or imprisonment anywhere in India.
Online gambling is also prohibited on the basis of the Information Technology Act 2000.
Only individual states such as Daman, Sikkik and Goa grant licenses for land-based casinos.
If the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor has his way, the huge unregulated market, which is a breeding ground for illegal gambling, will now be re-regulated on a federal basis.
Legal sports betting could help Indian sport
In particular, the online sports betting market, on which numerous bookmakers already operate without licences, urgently needs regulation. The urgency of the project is justified by the high turnover in the online sector.
According to a report by the Indian Legal Commission, unregulated providers will turn over more than 360 million US dollars (approx. 320 million euros) in 2018. Experts estimate that this figure could rise to as much as one billion US dollars (approx. 890 million euros) by 2021.
The Sports Bill, which was introduced into the Indian Parliament a few weeks ago, also aims to protect players and strengthen the integrity of sport.
In the past, there have always been prominent cases of game and betting manipulation. In 2000, for example, several Indian national cricket team players were banned for life for allegedly being involved in match-fraud.
Last year, former Indian national cricket captain Bushan Singh Bedi went so far as to describe the Indian Cricket Premier League as a “platform for money laundering”.
Legal, state-controlled betting, as demanded by Shashi Tharoor, could be a means to solve these problems.
Whether the dream of legal betting in India can actually be realised will be seen in the coming weeks and months. During this time the legislative initiative will be further discussed.
However, too much optimism might be premature. Especially the strongly religiously influenced states of India could have a problem with the legalisation of sports betting and get in the way of the project.