Gambling Prevalent Since Ancient Times: Legalisation Of Sports Betting Proposed By Law Commission
Poorbita Bagchi India
July 6th, 2018 / 3:37 PM
Image Credit: Facebook/Harsha Bhogle
In India, we have strict rules against betting and gambling, mostly on moral and ethical grounds, yet various media reports have repeatedly pointed out the prevalence of this practice clandestinely. Online gambling and betting have also become increasingly difficult to curb. A lot of money is involved in the illegal gambling projects, which has flourished into a parallel economy.
Moreover, as per Indian laws, even when real money is at stake but the ‘game’ involves some measure of ‘skill,’ then it lies outside the ambit of gambling laws. Sports fantasy sites and apps like ‘Dream 11’, which is advertised by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, have become quite popular with the Indian youth.
Hence, in May 2017, the Supreme Court mandated the Law Commission of India to look into the possibility of making gambling legal in India which can generate revenue for the government. The report titled, “Legal Framework: Gambling And Sports Betting Including In Cricket In India,” was submitted by the Law Commission on July 5, 2018. Several questions need to be addressed in the report:
“Will legalizing betting and gambling help in curbing the illegal activities undertaken by the citizens of our country in this regard? Will licensing such activities help the Government earn substantial revenue and generate employment? How far will legalizing betting and gambling be morally correct in the Indian circumstances?”
The Mudgal Committee report, made by a four-member committee, headed by former High Court judge Mukul Mudgal, found after the case of spot-fixing and betting by three players of a team in IPL, that investigative agencies lack the proper tool to track bookies or wager amount. Hence, they stated that “legalising sports betting would reduce the element of black money and the influence of the underworld besides helping them in detection and focusing their investigation”
The Supreme Court constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of former Chief Justice, Mr Justice R M Lodha that made four suggestions:
- Regulatory watchdogs would see that transactions are strictly monitored or registrations would be susceptible to cancellation.
- The Players, Administrators and others closely associated with the sport would furnish their income to make the process more transparent.
- After proper verification of age and identification licenses will be issued.
- Strict penal sanctions would be imposed on those violating the license and the rules.
The report also suggested that players like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, who have impeachable records should also spread awareness among young cricketers and educate them about the consequences.
People’s opinion on the legalisation of gambling
Respected commentator Harsha Bhogle humbly asked people on Twitter to share their views on betting in sports. He said, “Never been a betting person but the traditional view is that legalising betting will tempt the poor into frittering away their savings. The other side is that it will let them bet as part of an organised system rather than through undesirable elements. Happy to hear studied views.”
Never been a betting person but the traditional view is that legalising betting will tempt the poor into frittering away their savings. The other side is that it will let them bet as part of an organised system rather than through undesirable elements. Happy to hear studied views https://t.co/NBjFIp4RRZ
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) July 5, 2018
Many people reacted by saying that legalising gambling would financially destroy poor families. They said that the legalisation would ultimately get the middle class and poor people legally addicted to the evils of betting. Former Indian cricketer Snehal Pradhan said that even with awareness programmes in rural India, legalisation of gambling would mean that poor families would have an easy and accessible vice.
My father works rehabilitating
alcohol and drug addicts, and he's seen families destroyed financially because of addiction, especially in rural India. I fear that sports betting, even with awareness programs, could provide another easily accessible vice.
— Snehal Pradhan (@SnehalPradhan) July 5, 2018
Many came out in favour of legalisation.
Gambling is part of the human instinct and the only way to deal with the inevitable vice of gambling in society is to transparently regulate it, punish cheating and earn revenues through proper taxation. Hope Law Commission cover all the loop holes in their proposal.
— Tejas Dharamsi (@DharamsiTejas) July 5, 2018
Betting syndicate today is controlled by underworld & crooks. Institutinalising means professionals, fair businessmen will run it. Tax for govt. Illegal money earned from such trades funds drugs, terror and wat not. Better to be above board
— Binit Saraf (@binitsaraf) July 5, 2018
Gambling in India
Despite gambling being prevalent since ancient times in India, it is heavily looked down upon as a vice that the rich do for entertainment and the poor risk in the hope of earning a quick buck. It is addictive and risky. The report mentions “References of these activities are found in both the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Yudhishtir, the eldest son of Pandu had a penchant for gambling. One of the most gripping scenes in the Mahabharata shows him losing not only his whole kingdom but also his brothers and wife in the ‘Game of Dice’.” In Katyayana Smriti, it is mentioned that if gambling cannot be stopped then it should be regulated.
With the evolution of time and easy access to internet betting sites, regulating gambling has become a challenge. A five-judge bench Supreme Court observed that
“Considering the fact that gambling is evil and it is rampant, that gaming houses flourish as a profitable business and that detection of gambling is extremely difficult, the law to root out gambling cannot but be in the public interest. Such a law must of necessity provide for a special procedure but so long as it is not arbitrary and contains adequate safeguards it cannot be successfully assailed.”
It remains to be seen whether the government would pay heed to the Law Commission report.
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