All You Wanted To Know About Betting

Any cricket season, scandals regarding cricket betting and his illegal cousin—match fixing—do rounds. Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur has opened a discussion on legalising sports betting, in particular cricket. At last week’s meeting, referring to feedback from the participant, he said If we look at the problem of match-fixing, then betting trends can give us a lead on whether or not something unholy is happening.”

He went on to say that legalising betting may be an effective weapon to combat fixing. Betting is legal in countries like Australia and England and is a cash cow for their governments.  However it has been suggested that, if this is not feasible, the control of this operation is a realistic choice.

What is betting?

Any effort to describe betting would be incomplete without considering gambling, since these are wagering acts. Both words have been defined by the authors of history and mythology. Manusmriti, in verse 223 of chapter 9, says: “When inanimate (things) are used for gambling), which is called gambling (dyuta), when animate beings are used for the same purpose), one must know that to bet (samahvaya).”

Taking this concept forward, Kautilya, in his popular book Arthashastra (translated into English by LN Rangarajan, published by Penguin), said: “Gambling is described as gambling with inanimate objects such as dice; betting appears to have been challenging and concerned with cockfighting, animal races and the like.”

The Law Commission’s report, entitled ‘Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting, including in Cricket in India,’ has been closer to our present interpretation of these words. It made the crucial distinction that the bet or wager in gambling is put on a case without any hint of the result. Meanwhile in betting, the bets are put on the game, the outcome of which is dependent on the success of the players, influenced by their abilities.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries claim that betting is the act of risking money, etc., on the unpredictable outcome of an event, while Cambridge Dictionary says that betting is a habit of risking money on horse races, athletic events, etc.

The debate is continuing. However, it can be said that betting is a betting act based on the performance or skill of the players in the game. That’s why betting is most widely used for sporting competitions such as cricket or horse racing.

Why is it important?

Betting is apparently as old as time, and gaming and betting in India together though illegal, have developed into a multi-billion dollar business in India, with one report pegging the market to $60 billion. Although uncontrolled betting can give rise to malpractices such as match fixing and player abuse, legalisation and framing laws may subject participants in this operation to greater public oversight. Legalization of betting will also help to raise higher income for the government through taxes. Chartered accountants feel that such income would comfortably cover the GST deficit void.

Why should you care?

In India, Cricket is a religion. Any whiff of irregularities in this sports event stirs up collective emotions like nothing else. The shadow of betting has also cast a cloud on the Indian Premier League (IPL), which has contributed to the improvement of the cricket monitoring system. Few Indian and foreign players are said to have been involved in both betting and match fixing to manipulate the result. Today, players are expected to disclose some such instance of a bookie’s approach. As betting is illegal in India, there is a big chance that one will be involved in this act.


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