The government may earn about Rs 20,000 crore annually and reign in money laundering by legalising sports betting in the country, an industry body has said.
“India is continuing to lose billions of dollars in taxable revenue (an estimated Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 20,000 crore annually) through illegal operations in sports betting,” said Sanjiv Paul, chairman of FICCI sports committee and MD of Tata Metaliks.
According to the chamber estimates, the betting industry is worth Rs 300,000 crore a year and it peaks during the Indian Premier League season.
Paul said the biggest advantage of regulating betting would be the accountability for the large amounts of money transferred through illegal channels and reduction in cases of match fixing, money laundering and other related crimes.
In the midst of the spot fixing and scandals in cricket in which more than 15 people have been arrested, including Indian players, the industry chamber is batting for regularising and legitimising betting.
In a presentation submitted to the government, FICCI has highlighted that a blanket ban on betting is difficult to sustain. It says other countries have benefited by regulating betting, FICCI sources said.
According to FICCI, active regulation is the only real solution to legal betting. The chamber wants the government to set up a commission, on the model of UK Gambling Commission.
The UK Gambling Commission assesses applicants who operate betting houses. They also investigate key officers and owners of the operating business. The gaming commission has created and enforced codes of practice and procedures in sports betting.
“They (UK Gambling Commission) audit betting operators in order to ensure that they are complying with the rules and their licences. They also investigate complaints against operators and have the power to review and revoke licences if rules are breached. The commission can conduct criminal prosecutions or co-operate with other authorities,” FICCI said in the report.
However, some experts believe that legalising betting would not ensure curbs on the involvement of the underworld. S.N. Srivastava, special commissioner, Delhi Police, said there was no way of ensuring that legalising betting would stop the underworld from pumping in money or prevent matching fixing.
“It has till now not been established that legalising betting in sports would bring down match fixing,” he said.
Srivastava, who is heading the team investigating the IPL fixing case, said regulating betting could help to generate taxes from operators. However, he said, “It is not approved by our society and we also lack the requisite education and awareness in this regard.”
According to Srivastava, India needs stringent laws in sports, but the country is not yet ready to accept regulation in betting. He suggested that legalising betting could be considered 10-15 years later.