The Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI), quoting a study by KPMG on online betting, put India’s betting market at an estimated Rs. 3,00,000 crore (around U.S. $60 billion).
Ironically, wagering or betting is illegal in many parts of the country, including Karnataka.
The VII Schedule of the Constitution empowers State governments to enact laws to maintain public order specifically in the areas of betting and gambling.
Karnataka has enacted a chapter, under the Karnataka Police Act 1963, called Prevention of Gaming.
This chapter describes that all types of wagering or betting in connection with any game of chance — except wagering or betting in horseracing at a licensed racecourse — attracts punishment.
Games of chance include a game of chance and skill combined and a pretended game of chance or a game of chance and skill combined.
Though lotteries were allowed in Karnataka for many decades, they were banned a few years ago following controversy over online lotteries introduced by Sikkim.
However, the humungous amount of money involved in the illegal betting market reflects on how law-enforcing agencies have failed or are incapacitated when it comes to betting in the country. And Karnataka is no different.
Those who do get caught are small fry such as those organising matka or andar bahar in urban areas and those who bet on cockfights and animal fights in rural areas. They are arrested under the provisions of Prevention of Gaming. All small change compared to the big money cricket betting entails.
This raises a few questions — capabilities of law-enforcing agencies to curb betting under existing laws, what can existing provisions in the law do in a global village where the betting firms are based in foreign countries, and whether the time has come to regulate betting in sports as has been done in the U.K. and other countries instead of banning it.
Advocate Prakash K.M. says that the Information Technology Act does not have specific provision to ban online betting through the websites administered from abroad. India should think of framing laws that can be implemented effectively instead of being stuck with a series of laws best left in the statute books, he says while pointing out to the hopelessness of archaic laws in a wired world.
The former Additional Advocate-General Sajan Poovayya says that existing legislation on betting have been proved toothless and it is time to provide a practical platform for betting in sports as in the case of horseracing based on the Supreme Court’s verdict.
Regulated stock market is an example how authorities can keep tabs on the betting process and ensure a safe platform for the public, says Mr. Poovayya, pointing out that such a law should have unambiguous provisions to check manipulations for wrongful gains.