The Indian sports ministry is mulling the option of introducing legal sports betting in the country, it was reported last week. The possibility is due to growing pressure by interest parties and the fact that revenues generated from a legalized and regulated industry could positively impact the development of Indian sports.
Three years ago, the sports ministry commissioned the study of gambling regimes in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, however no progress was ever made on that front. Several months ago, these studies were revived, along with research done by FICCI which supports the idea of sports betting in India.
Times of India quoted a source close to the government who said: “We are still at a preliminary stage of examining the issue. It is one way of curbing illegal betting. Revenue too was a major motivating factor. In one of its knowledge papers published recently, FICCI quoted a KPMG report as saying that India’s betting market stood at Rs 300,000 crore with a possible revenue of Rs 12,000-Rs19,000 crore to the government. If this is the sort of money involved, we felt a study would help. But we haven’t come up with any concrete proposal yet.”
The government will make recommendations which will then be sent to other ministerial departments (law, finance and home) to receive their input which is seen as extremely important.
The sports ministry is realistic about the many hurdles it will face until regulated sports betting is introduced in India.
“The general perception is that we would be encouraging gambling,” the source is quoted as saying. “The fact remains that regulating betting only minimizes the dangers of match-fixing. It cannot root out the malaise. So public opinion will matter a lot. Earlier, there was an outcry against legalizing online lotteries. We have to respect public sentiment. I don’t think it would be an easy decision to take.”