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May 30, 2013 at 06:12pm IST

Legalising sports betting will push the mafia out: Vidushpat Singhania

After the IPL 6 spot-fixing scandal broke, there have been much deliberations on whether India should take the route of legalising betting in sports? Vidushpat Singhania, chairman of the FICCI working committee on regulating sports betting in India and an eminent lawyer, shared his perspective with IBNLive readers.

Q. Things are funny in our country: Betting though not immoral is illegal, while fixing though egregious is not per se illegal. Asked by: Chandrakanth

Legalising sports betting will push the mafia out: Vidushpat Singhania

Should India legalise betting in sports?

A. I couldn't agree with you more. We are indeed dealing with a funny situation, while we are searching for a penal provision to punish spot fixing we have the public gambling acts and the police acts of the states punishing betting and gambling. It is absolutely strange that betting, a form of entertainment is considered illegal whereas the actual evil which is match fixing/spot fixing is not addressed squarely by a penal provision.

Q. Dear Vidushpat, Do you think that legalising betting will help to evade spot fixing? Do you think even after legalising betting spot fixing can take place? Or any separate law required for spot fixing? Asked by: Raaj

A. Yes, I think legalization of sports betting will be an essential tool in the hands of the enforcement agencies to check spot fixing/match fixing. However like the Indian Penal Code has not been able to eliminate crime from the society, legalization of sports betting would not be able to eliminate spot fixing completely. What it would be able to do is greatly curb spot fixing/match fixing as detection and investigation of these practices would increase and would deter people from indulging in this practice. If the government was thinking of legalization of sports betting that the problems of manipulation of results of a sporting event or its particulars would be addressed in this bill itself, but from the current position of the government I assume that they are more keen on getting a law on spot fixing first and then subsequently consider legalization of sports betting.

Q. Legalizing betting means better will have to get licence for betting? Asked by: rakka

A. Yes legalization of betting would mean that the betting operators who want to operate in India would need a licence and would have to comply with the strict licencing conditions.

Q. As in Srilanka then betting mafias will have there own teams in IPL with benami owners? Asked by: Prathap

A. Contrary to what you are saying, if betting is legalized there would be no place for the mafia in the betting market as legitimate companies strictly complying with the stringent conditions of the law would operate in the market, mafias supply of money from illegal betting would get seriously restricted and hopefully they would not be able to buy a sports team then even under Benami.

Q. Is betting and gambling same thing? Asked by: Jiva

A. The difference between betting on sports and gambling depends on the element of skill vs element of chance aspect. It is my belief that betting on sports is a game of skill like betting on horse racing versus gambling which is a pure game of chance.

Q. Will legalizing betting will be a center subject of state subject..revenue will go to center or state? Asked by: Madan

A. Strictly betting and gambling is a state subject as per List II. However centre has the option of amending the public gambling act leaving the state the option to ratify to it. The centre government could also look at other constitutional entries for instance draft rules for online sports betting under the Information and Technology Act or formulate a law under inter state trade as sports betting would involve substantial inter state transactions.

Q. What are the chances of having betting legalised in India? Asked by: Maras

A. Well the centre is considering the option and it will depend on the political will, whether betting should be regulated or not. I can only say that I am hopeful that in the near future sports betting in India would be regulated.

Q. Economists insist that subsidies for weaker sections of the society must be withdrawn,because it creates laziness among the people..Then what about legalising gambling? It also tempts people to look for easy and quick money rather than hardwork right? Asked by: Vinod K R

A. The thing I find hard to comprehend is why we are trying to impose a nanny state on the weaker section of the society. Do they not have a free will to decide what is good and what is bad. We should not assume that the weaker section does not know what to do with their money, in fact they are more prudent with their money than the rich. In fact the illegal betting market is putting them more at risk as they are being exposed to the criminals in the society. Having said that, I believe that regulation may actually need to protect the weaker section initially till the time market develops and there is a proper understanding. Hence it may be prudent to have a financial threshold and maybe a need to submit bank statements before allowing a person to bet.

Q. Will there be any criteria put on the people who will go for betting apart from age limit? Asked by: Manoj

A. Yes other criteria that could be put in is financial stability, history of excessive gambling amongst many others.

Q. Sir, Can sports betting be legalized by state government.what other format of gambling can be legalized in state like Arunachal Pradesh .what are the criteria..for it and how long does it take to do so.can betters from other states bet if legalized in my state. Asked by: Aju122000@gmail.com

A. Yes the Sikkim Government has legalized online sports betting. Licences under this Act are yet to be issued. Therefore if the Andhra Pradesh government want to legalize sports betting the avenue is open to them. The criteria and timeline would depend upon the intention of the state legislature.

Q. How much revenue is government expected to generate if betting is legalized? Asked by: Rohit

A. The government is looking to generate anywhere near Rs. 12,000 to 20,000 crores from tax revenue by regulating sports betting.

Q. Is legalising betting a solution to fixing problem? Betting is legalized in England but still Pakistan players were caught in spot fixing matches. Asked by: Jivan

A. Legalization of sports betting can never eliminate match fixing/spot fixing because human greed can never be controlled. However it can certainly deter such people i.e players, coaches and punters as chances of detection would be much higher. Additionally it can be inferred from the worldwide experience that betting operators are the best police to monitor such practice as they stand to lose the maximum from such activities.

Q. What about the importance of traceability of transactions if betting is legalised. Is this hampering the will of the powers to legalise betting? Asked by: gopal123

A. Yes this could certainly pose a problem and once the government starts deliberating a draft act, they would have to put in some conditions of financial due diligence like KYC norms of banks before allowing a person to place bets, so that money laundering does not take place under the guise of betting.

Q. The irrational income tax structure on winnings from horse races has kept many away from the legal channels of betting, even though betting on horse races is legal,would the same thing happen if sports betting is legalised too? Asked by: sgk

A. I agree with you completely 30% tax on winnings is on the higher side and the government would have to deliberate a balanced tax structure which does not deter people from placing bets illegally. A tax structure of 15%-20% on winnings in my opinion would be a more appropriate tax structure besides licensing fees on the operators.

Q. When Betting is made legal then match fixing mafias will rule the team? See with all the banning what CSK owners son in law did as per allegations??? Asked by: Prathap

A. Contrary to what you are saying, if betting is legalized there would be no place for the mafia in the betting market as legitimate companies strictly complying with the stringent conditions of the law would operate in the market, mafias supply of money from illegal betting would get seriously restricted and hopefully they would not be able to buy a sports team then. In fact the ICC code itself has stipulations that a person associated with a team cannot place bets on a match otherwise he stands to get banned. If CSKs owners son is considered as a part of the team then the BCCI disciplinary committee can take action against him and can impose a ban and/or a hefty fine on him.

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