Joe Saumarez Smith: Bede Gaming – “legalising and taxing sports betting is the only way forward” for India

Joe Saumarez Smith – Bede Gaming

With India on the brink of legalising sports betting, and a number of other countries around the world also mulling the idea, this year’s Betting on Football will be hosting a track focused upon the Global Markets that are considering liberalisation as well as looking at those that have legalised recently.

One of the panel discussions on the track that will take place is  ‘India – On the cusp of regulation?’ where some of the expert speakers will be discussing the challenges that India may face, and the changing attitudes of legislators.

Among the panellists is Joe Saumarez Smith, Chairman at Bede Gaming, who spoke to SBC about how he believes that the liberalisation of the Indian market will largely be driven by cricket, but the growing football and tennis markets may play a role in engaging with newer audiences.

SBC: Are attitudes changing in India with regards to sports betting legalisation?

Joe Saumarez Smith: Among the more enlightened politicians and sports administrators in India there is tacit acceptance that legalising and taxing sports betting is the only way forward. There is such a huge level of illegal sports betting within India and as we are seeing in Sri Lanka, match fixing and spot fixing is far more likely to happen in a market where gambling is not regulated.

However there aren’t many votes to be had in licensing sports betting and that is where the problem lies. The potential tax revenues are not high enough to mitigate the political risk of introducing new legislation. My view is that only when the BCCI really gets behind the idea will it actually see a change in the legislation.

SBC: Do you think that India will follow a similar route to that of the US where markets will be legalised via individual states and not through the central government?

JSS: I think it will almost certainly be federal legislation with individual states being allowed to opt out, especially the Muslim majority states where legal sports gambling would present a huge problem.

SBC: Do you think that cricket will be the driving force behind sports betting?

JSS: Cricket betting is obviously huge in India but tennis and soccer betting is growing quickly at the moment. Cricket will always be the number one sport for betting but there aren’t always competitive matches on in the correct time zones, so other sports will become popular with bettors.

I think the attitude of cricket’s regulators to betting on the sport will have a major effect on how the sports betting market evolves in India. For example, I would expect the BCCI to try and limit bets on player performances and on bracket betting (betting on what happens in a particular over or during a particular passage of play) to try and reduce match-fixing.

SBC: What is being done to address integrity across the country?

JSS:It is really hard to put in place proper integrity measures when such a high proportion of the global betting on cricket is done with illegal bookmakers.

How do you monitor the many billions of dollars of bets on cricket globally that go through Sharjah? Obviously some bookies such as Betfair will report when they see unusual betting patterns but generally speaking, cricket doesn’t have a good handle on betting.

They are doing a much better job of explaining to young players how match-fixers work and making sure they don’t get trapped into fixing games but fundamentally you need to be able to track the flow of money if you want to really improve the integrity of the sport.

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This year’s Betting on Football, which will be the 6th edition of the largest international football and betting trade conferences, is due to take place at Stamford Bridge from 19-22 March.

It will be attended by 2,000 senior delegates, in addition to 200 leading industry speakers, 40 key sessions, and over 40 exhibitors. For more information, please click HERE.

As part of the Global Markets track, panellists will be discussing which states in India are most likely going to legalise sports betting, what will be the driving force behind legalisation, and whether attitudes are changing.

India – On the cusp of regulation?’ will take place on 21 March, from 10:15-11:00.

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