Last month, the Law Commission of India (LCI) found that arguments in favour of relaxing the country’s gambling ban far outweigh those highlighting its immorality.
As things stand, gambling in India is heavily restricted except for selective categories such as lotteries and horse racing. However, the LCI’s 267th report recommended the full legalisation of regulated betting and gambling activities, albeit with a few interesting twists.
We caught up with Lorenzo Caci, Director of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships at Sportradar, to discuss some of the key findings from this report, which includes applying restrictions to stake amounts according to income, ensuring all transactions are cashless and linked to an Aadhaar/PAN Card, and debarring all those who fall under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) line.
SBC: How likely is the government to accept the Commission’s findings?
LC: The summary of the Law Commission’s findings illustrates that there is a lot of volume in illicit gambling and sports betting activities taking place in the unregulated market. The best bet for the Indian Government is to allow for regulated sports betting to curb or put an end to the illegal activities.
However, the Indian general elections are due in April-May 2019, and the probability of any judgement on the Law Commission’s findings prior seems very bleak. But given the depth, there is a possibility that sports betting might follow the path of fantasy sports and lottery, and be regulated and with jurisdiction at the state-level.
SBC: What might a regulated market mean for job creation in the country?
LC: Given the depth and breadth of the betting industry, a regulated market would mean a massive increase in jobs creation, as it is a wholly new industry. Moreover, the introduction of a new industry is often followed closely by associated businesses, further fuelling the increase in jobs for the local market.
That being said, there may be difficulties for the regulated betting industry in India to attract top talent as betting has a strong social prejudice, and therefore working in the sports betting industry may not be deemed a desirable or honourable career.
This presents a strong opportunity for internal established bookmakers to educate the local public—both on the consumer as well as the businesses—which may decrease or eliminate any misconceptions or misjudgements in the Indian market, particularly within the family unit where a member is working with a betting operator.
SBC: What do you make of the payment suggestion for the market – is this too prohibitive?
LC: While the payment suggestion of tying in to the local Aadhaar ID card and Income Tax card might be prohibitive, the focus is really about the sensitivity of the issue and the perceived pitfalls of betting such as money laundering. It is a good framework to build upon, and perhaps we might see relaxations going forwards.
SBC: Banning all those under the GST line – can this actually work?
LC: We believe that the Indian Government places the welfare of its citizens at the forefront, especially when it is dealing with the issue of gaming and sports betting, and that the welfare schemes provided to those under the poverty-line are not misused for gambling or betting purposes.
While the Indian Government wants to classify sports betting as entertainment, it also has a duty to ensure that its citizens are not indulging in betting instead of taking care of their basic needs. The prohibitive payment suggestions also ensure that the regulatory bodies or the Indian Government will be able to monitor all payments, and ban those under the income tax line.