The success of the T20 domestic league appears to have led to, among many outcomes, an upsurge in cricket betting in smaller cities and towns across India. On the betting radar now are Tier 2 cities which did not earlier have a strong presence of bookie-punter network nor did they prominently figure on bookies' networks.
In some towns such as Macchalipatinam (Andhra Pradesh) and Hubli (Karnataka), the betting is localised and not always part of the larger international syndicate that operates on the Mumbai-Dubai-Karachi axis.
However, cities like Jodhpur, Chennai, Rajkot and Kanpur which did not figure conspicuously on the betting syndicate's network have shown a remarkable level of activity in the last year or two, with part-time or small-time bookies running the underground business, according to police sources in these cities.
Jaipur's proximity to Delhi has made it "a safe haven" for bookies who temporarily shift their base when surveillance increases in Delhi and later move back, said Jaipur police sources. The city police filed 16 cases and booked 51 people this year during T20 matches for betting and/or gambling.
Jodhpur is fast emerging as a centre of book-making activity in Rajasthan with many small time agents at work, sources added. The agents work on behalf of bookies based either in Mumbai or Delhi, or in international destinations.
Gujarat's (in)famous bookie Dinesh Kalgi, arrested two years ago and now in hiding, operated from Ahmedabad. However, in the state's Tier 2 cities, betting seems rampant and organised.
The state police carried out nearly 200 raids in various small cities and towns so far from the start of the T20 tournament. In Rajkot alone, there have been 50 raids but the police were able to nab only small time operators. They are agents of the main operators, said a senior state CID officer.
"We have asked CID (Crime) and crime branches of Rajkot, Surat and district superintendents of police to increase their surveillance," said additional chief secretary (home) SK Nanda. He instructed senior police officers across the state through a video-conference on Friday "to go after the bookies and agents".
In Chennai, the T20 tournament this year saw betting on a large scale. The arrest of six bookies earlier this week, most of them with links to north Indian operators, exposed the city's presence on the betting map.
The ring leader called Prashant is absconding, police sources said, but the raids this year revealed the large-scale operations of the bookie network. "He has fled the country to South Africa," a police officer said. Prashant, whose car was found parked at the Chennai airport, was linked to a Delhi bookie Sanjay Ahuja, the officer said.
"We cannot yet see a link between the bookies or agents with players or cricket administrators but investigation is on, said police sources. The network also does not seem to be related to spot fixing," said an officer carrying out the investigation.
Inputs from: Rashpal Singh in Jaipur, Mahesh Langa in Ahmedabad, KV Lakshmana in Chennai.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.