BANGALORE: The Union government is seriously looking into the possibility of legalizing sports gambling. It is examining gambling regulations in other countries, particularly the UK and the US, in a clear response to the growing clamour for betting to be legalized.
The sports ministry believes that cricket has such a cult following it should be legal for fans to bet on everything concerning the game. The government is also seen to be driven by the prospect of huge revenue earnings from bets placed and the taxes levied. The end result could be more money for sports development.
The ministry is studying Britain's Gambling Act 2005, which updated the country's laws on gambling and introduced checks and balances to protect children. The accent is on understanding the British act's efficacy and ramifications once adapted to Indian conditions.
Ministry sources told TOI, "The aim is to ascertain whether legalized betting can exist in India without the stigma that is attached to it now. So, we are looking at the pros and cons with great care. The UK model seems rather comprehensive." Sources said the process is at a nascent stage and will have to pass several tests before it is implemented.
Ministry sources told TOI that the process would, however, take time as it would have to pass from bureaucratic level to the Cabinet before it implementation by the home ministry.
The Gambling Commission regulates Britain's thriving industry and deals with all forms of gambling including bingo, casinos, the lottery, scratch cards and sports. This last means betting on horse and greyhound racing. All of this was made possible by the 2005 Act, an all-encompassing version of the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 and the 1968 Gaming Act.
The ministry will also examine horse racing here in India to check if the model needs to be tweaked.
Sources said, "We are keen on legislation as soon as possible. At the same time, it cannot be hurried through because we need to convince all about the need to legalize betting". The biggest hurdle would be the fact that gambling is taboo in India. Another problem is the rationale that legalizing betting will not root out illegal betting syndicates or match-fixing.
"But nowhere in the world do governments claim that legalized betting spells an end to match-fixing, " the sources argued. "They run on parallel tracks. The latest incident of spot-fixing has happened in England. We are only looking at regulating the industry."
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