Law Commission seeks state associations' views on legalising betting

RM Lodha, former Chief Justice of India, at a press conference AFP

Tasked with examining the possibility of legalising betting, the Law Commission of India has sought the suggestions of the BCCI's member units before submitting its recommendations. The Supreme Court had mandated the Law Commission to undertake such a study after the Lodha Committee had recommended in its exhaustive report that betting on cricket be made legal in India.

In a letter to the board's member associations, Sanjay Singh, member secretary of the Law Commission, said the Commission would examine both betting and gambling given their "intertwining nature."

"While the Law Commission has been reaching out to the various stakeholders to seek their observations and suggestions, it considers that the views of your association will be valuable in formulating its recommendations on betting," Singh wrote in the letter accessed by ESPNcricinfo.

"I would, therefore, request you to forward the views of the association on the matter to the Commission at the earliest, as we would like to submit our report in line with the directions of the Supreme Court, at an early date."

The debate over legalising betting has been a topic in Indian cricket ever since the match-fixing scandal rocked the sport in 2000. In fact, the creation of the Lodha Committee, which recommended a structural overhaul of cricket administration in India, was a direct consequence of the 2013 spot-fixing episode in the Indian Premier League.

As things stand, horse racing is the only sport on which betting is legal in India, as a result of which betting on cricket operates in an unregulated environment run by illegal bookmakers.

The Committee stated in its report that many respondents appearing before it were of the view that legalising betting would benefit both the sport and the country's economy.

"It cannot be overlooked that the worldwide legal sports betting market is worth over 400 billion dollars," the Lodha Committee's report stated. "However, with the interest of cricket being foremost in our minds, it would always be necessary to protect and invoke transparency from those involved in the game."

The Committee, however, was clear that betting must be legalised only with the following safeguards in place: "a) Regulatory watchdogs would be necessary to ensure that the betting houses as well as those transacting there are strictly monitored, failing which their registrations would be susceptible to cancellation; b) The Players, Administrators and others closely associated with the sport would be required to furnish the details of their incomes and assets for the sake of transparency; c) Licenses would have to be issued to those placing the bets as well, with age and identification details recorded; d) Strict penal sanctions would have to be imposed on those transgressing the license and other requirements."

BS Chauhan, the chairman of the Law Commission, had reckoned that there was a case for regulating betting through an enactment of a law rather than a blanket ban. "Harm resulting from excess is not limited to gambling alone, as an excess of anything may negate its benefits," he was quoted as saying at a seminar organised by FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and the All India Gaming Federation in March in a Times of India report.

"The response of the state in such a situation should be to regulate the activity, not seek to stop it completely. Legalisation would give the government the opportunity to bring gambling out from the dark corners of society, impose controls and extract some revenue ... if betting were legal then a huge chunk of money that, at the moment, circulates only round the black market, would quickly become available," he said.

A BCCI official said, however, that legalising betting and gambling was a complex argument that required adequate spadework. "If you want to do it and make it successful, there is a lot to be done because it can't be half-baked," he told ESPNcricinfo. "If you legalise betting, then who runs the betting houses? Will it be done by the government or will there be certain companies? Is there going to be a structure in place for those companies? Have you thought of a system where you need gambling de-addiction centres? There are not enough liquor de-addiction centres in India, forget betting."