New Delhi: The recent spot-fixing controversy in the Indian Premier League has put the focus back on regularising sports betting in the country.
Justice Mukul Mudgal, who is heading the IPL probe panel set-up by the Supreme Court, feels that legalising and regulating sports betting is the need of the hour. He said it would not only help detect fraud in sports but will also stop illegal transactions by the “underworld.” He gave several reasons to stress his point.
“India has a paradoxical situation. You can bet on the skill of a horse and its jockey but you cannot bet on the skills of let’s say Sachin Tendulkar or Sardar Singh,” said Mudgal at the FICCI seminar on ‘Regulating Sports Betting and Sports Law.’
“I would suggest that the government considers having a sports/gambling, sports betting and regulating Act and invite suggestions from public, on the moral front, ethical front and the practical front, and thereafter go ahead with the drafting.” He, however, said that while allowing sports betting in the country, the perceived threats toward the society should also be kept in mind.
“There are drawbacks and that is where a rethink is required. There is a threat towards children who get exposed and for the gambling addicts it can lead to destruction of families."
“Betting in sports or gambling Act would keep this factor in mind and provide some kind of a solution or some kind of protection so that the law is not misused.” Besides, the government can earn huge revenue which is not possible now because of the unauthorised betting, he said.
“Regulation by the government, if betting in sports is legalised, is essential. First is the revenue. In any other betting market the revenue is staggering. Today, betting in sports takes place in an unauthorised way or informal way and a lot of this money goes into funding the underworld and underworld activities. If all this is in white, that if it is regulated, lot of unaccounted money will come into taxable sector.”
Mudgal said the integrity of sports is getting affected. “One of the biggest threats to sports integrity is sporting fraud — be it match fixing, spot-fixing, tanking, point shaving, amongst others.”
After the IPL controversy, the government is already mulling bringing a law to prevent dishonest practices in sports. “The government has taken into account a Bill which envisages punishment for these activities and similar legislations exist in Australia, South Africa, UK, France, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, among others."
Others in the panel were of similar view. Alex Ward, vice-president, Commonwealth Lawyers Association said: “The concern in Australia on gambling and betting results is less important than concerns on corruption, and match-ixing. India should think about legalising and regulating betting rather than preventing.”
KV Vishwanathan, additional Solicitor General of India, said: “There are pros and cons involved in legalising and regulating betting but the government should first set up an Independent Regulatory Commission which can study various aspects and come out with a solution keeping in mind the elimination of bookies.”
A Didar Singh, secretary general, FICCI, pointed out that globally funds from sports betting and gambling are being utilised to generate funds for good causes and it should happen in India too.