Let’s bet on it
Oct 18 2013
Legal luminaries and cricket legends agree that the time has come to legalise betting in order to ensure transparency in the sport
Earlier this year, during the sixth season of the Indian Premier League, when the spot-fixing sage involving a few players of the Rajasthan Royals surfaced before acquiring a wider dimension in the form of team owners/principals also allegedly being involved, there were fresh calls to bring in legislation that would make sports betting a legal activity. Yet, as always, the issue died away once the initial furore subsided.
A group of members of Parliament I spoke to immediately after IPL-6 had ended were categorical. Privately, they were all for it, the logic being that the government may as well benefit from the betting that goes around the game anyway — but each one of them said that in public, they would not support any such legislation.
“Can you imagine what will happen in my constituency if I put my support behind any such bill?” one asked. “Not only will my voters be horrified given the stigma around gambling, my opponents will get a handy stick for the next elections,” he added. Such being the case, is there any chance of the government of the day actually taking a step in this direction? Last week, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) organised a seminar around the issue, called the “Conference on Regulating Sports Betting and Sports Law”, where a number of strong views were put forward.
Leading the way was Mukul Mudgal, former chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court who is a long-standing votary of the step. Incidentally, he has also recently been appointed as chairman of the Supreme Court-mandated probe panel that will examine the IPL betting and spot fixing scandal. Justice Mudgal held that there were many good reasons for laws to regulate sports betting to be brought in with a sense of urgency.
Not only would the government earn substantial revenue from taxing such activity; it was taking place in an unauthorised manner anyway which threatened the integrity of sports and players. It also provided revenues to criminals which were being used for other illicit purposes. Besides, grassroot sports programmes could do with the money received from taxing sports betting, he added.
Justice Mudgal advocated that the rate at which winnings from betting should be taxed could be decided by the government but added there was need for extensive consultation with all stakeholders whilst evaluating social conditions as well.
Here’s a selection of some of the other opinions:
Mohan Parasaran, solicitor general of India: There has been extensive discussion between law ministry and ministry of youth affairs and sports on drafting a modern law on sports betting, and there have been suggestions to bring standalone legislation on the subject. The Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill, 2013, is a step in this direction.
Soli Sorabjee, former AGI: Betting is a natural human instinct, it should not be denied and time demands that it should be discussed seriously to come out with the solutions to match fixing.
Arjuna Ranatunga, former Sri Lanka captain: There is need for creating awareness and sensitise players on the consequences of doping and other sports frauds.
KTS Tulsi, senior Supreme Court advocate: Legalising betting would be a step in the right direction as this will ensure transparency and lead to removal of corruption from sports, which is the need of the hour.