Convinced India will lose the tri-series in the West Indies? Care to bet on it? If you live in Karnataka, you could.

Contrary to popular belief, the Karnataka Police Act does not prohibit betting or wagering in an “athletic game or sport”.

Though the police often book people on charges of betting during cricket matches, many legal experts who have analysed the provisions in the Act made it clear that only a “game of chance” or a “game of chance and skill combined” and “pretended game of chance or of chance and skill combined” are prohibited under the Act.

“Athletic game or sport” has been clearly kept out of the purview of the law prohibiting betting, says former Advocate General B.V. Acharya.

This has been the legal position since 1973.

The Act defines “gaming” as well as “game of chance”. Gaming “does not include a lottery but includes all forms of wagering or betting in connection with any game of chance, except wagering or betting on a horse race (run on any racecourse within or outside the State), when such wagering or betting takes place in a racecourse.”

Lottery was banned in the State in early 2000.

The law says “game of chance” includes “a game of chance and skill combined and a pretended game of chance or of chance and skill combined, but does not include any athletic game or sport”.

Former Additional Advocate General K.M. Nataraj points out that sport can be defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others”. And as the law doesn’t prohibit this, betting in any sport, including cricket, tennis, football and hockey, cannot be termed illegal as long as it takes place in Karnataka.

However, this would apply only to betting on the final result. A wager placed on mid-game activities — such as whether a player would hit a six in the current over or a bowler would bowl a wide or a player would score two goals in the first half of a football match — would be more complicated as it involves activities that are a “combination of chance and skill”, explains Mr. Nataraj.

“Betting on these mid-game activities may not be an illegal act if these activities are not manipulated or fixed, and betting is based purely on capabilities of the batsman hitting sixes, and similarly other possibilities in other sports,” he says.

As police officers may not be aware about the exclusion of “athletic game or sport” from the purview of “prevention of gaming”, the Home Department should train them on it, Mr. Nataraj added.

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