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Legalization key to tackle rising illegal gambling The approach to tackling India’s massive illegal gambling market is too piecemeal to make a real dent in the problem and experts say the only real way to curb the practice is to provide a legal framework.
ndia’s authorities lack a coherent approach when it comes to tackling rampant illegal gambling, with criminal syndicates often enjoying political patronage from a ruling class which has publicly opposed legalization of the industry. Gambling is mostly forbidden in India, but legislation is drawn up by individual states, creating a patchwork of mixed rules. Casinos are allowed in Goa, Sikkim and Daman, while about 12 out of 29 states allow lotteries. Sikkim and Nagaland have recently permitted online gambling and, to add to the mix, the Supreme Court has ruled that games of skill, such as rummy, are permitted. Despite the restrictions Indians remain keen gamblers. Six years ago an oft quoted report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry put the size of the market at about $60 billion, with much of that being wagered illegally. That number appears to have since ballooned with the Doha-based International Centre for Sports Security in a report released in January putting the amount illegally bet on sports alone at $150 billion, with most on cricket. Piecemeal approach However, the country’s approach to tackling the problem is as fragmented as the legislation covering the sector. While central investigating agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation do look into some high-profile cases with a panIndia impact, at the state level the matter is generally dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the police. In July, the Delhi police claimed to have unearthed a major betting racket running all
Asia Gaming Briefings | November 2016
over India, with millions of dollars being bet annually. It was allegedly being run under the protection of a former member of parliament. Powerful protectors A.K. Singla, the deputy commissioner of police (DCP), north-east Delhi, who is investigating the racket, told AGB that he had been brought in last year especially to handle increased incidents of illegal betting in the area, mainly in the east and north-east
districts of Delhi. A police source told AGB that the previous DCP handling north-east Delhi was himself found to be involved in the ring, along with junior policemen. “Political patronage is essential to their operations as the market is cut-throat and violent. They started running this racket after toppling someone else’s business in 2005, for example,” said Singla. He added that the commission agents usually rigged the process to ensure maximum profits for themselves.