Minister Anurag Thakur bats for legalising betting

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 20, 2020

Anurag Singh Thakur   -  Kamal Singh

Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur has pitched for legalising betting in India.

Thakur, a former BCCI President and a cricket buff, was speaking at the ICICI Securities - India Financial Conference 2020 on Thursday. Referring to suggestions from participants during the conference, he said betting is legal in Australia, England and elsewhere. The money these countries earn from this is, in turn, spent on sports.

“Betting can be an effective tool to curb match fixing, which is why we need to consider possibilities (of legalising it),” he said. Thakur, however, added that it should be conducted in a systematic manner. “Such a system can help in monitoring people allegedly involved in fixing,” he said.

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While betting and gambling are illegal, there is a huge underground market for them; one report valued them at over $60 billion, with cricket accounting for 80 per cent of it. The sheer size and the resultant problems it has thrown up, such as match-fixing and spot-fixing, have led to calls for legalising betting, including by the Supreme Court-appointed Mudgal and Lodha committees.

Though the Law Commission, in its report submitted in 2018 titled, ‘Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including in Cricket in India’, recommended that legalising betting and gambling in the present scenario is not desirable and that a ban must be enforced on unlawful betting and gambling, it said that if this is not possible, regulating this activity is the only viable option.

Accordingly, the Commission suggested gambling and betting, if any, should be offered only by operators from India possessing valid licences granted by the game licensing authority.

For participants, there must be a cap on the number of transactions an individual can indulge in these activities in a specific period — monthly, half-yearly or yearly.

The nature of stakes should be restricted to money and linked to PAN and Aadhaar cards, and the betting amount should be prescribed by law, with an upper limit on the amount one can legally stake in a gamble, which may be on the basis of the deposit, winnings or losses, the report said. The report is now being examined by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Department of Sports. Meanwhile, there is a raging debate on whether betting and gambling are the same.

Betting vs gambling

Technically, betting and gambling are acts of wagering. The Law Commission quoted Kautilya’s Arthashastra, which defines gambling as wagering with inanimate objects such as dice, and betting as challenges involving cock fights, animal races and similar contests.

However, with the advent of technology, this difference may not be apt. In gambling, the wager is placed on an event without any clue to the outcome, whereas in betting, the outcome is based on the performance of players, the Commission noted.

The issue even reached the Supreme Court which held that Rummy is not a game of chance but of skill.

Betting and gambling figure in the State List under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Published on November 19, 2020

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