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Indian sports minister MS Gill has censured the use of a text-messaging competition during the IPL whereby users predict the number of runs per over for cash prizes, terming it akin to betting and gambling which are banned in India. Gill criticised the Indian board (BCCI) for allowing the SMS competition to go on and asked them to restrain the IPL authorities.
"I see the commercial use of cricket for business gains that is going on. I am concerned at knowledgeable comments from serious followers of cricket about the latest venture of encouraging viewers to make ball-by-ball predictions of runs scored for economic gain in the shape of cash prizes," Gill said.
"This is viewed as 'openly encouraging gambling and betting', which official bodies do not resort to, even in countries where betting is legal; all this 'to make money and enlarge their TV viewership base'".
Referring to the match-fixing scandal of 2000, Gill said the BCCI should have refrained from promoting the SMS competition. "Cricket is part of the family of sports in our country. Its current riches do not set it apart from other games," he said. "The actions of the BCCI are bound to impact the thinking in other sports, sometime or the other. We have already had, sometime back, a match-fixing scandal in the game. It seems the ICC had expressed concerns about such possibilities, in the IPL."
Last month, ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat had told Cricinfo about concern in cricket's governing body over the risk of corruption in the Twenty20 format. "We are mindful that with Twenty20 cricket there is great excitement and money. Put those ingredients into a pot and there is a higher concern." His statements echoed those of Sir Paul Condon, the head of the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, Sir Paul Condon, who last year told the council's executive board meeting, "the IPL brings with it the biggest threat in terms of corruption in the game since the days of cricket in Sharjah."
"A lot of effort has gone into this concept and into making this possible. It's a valid point [that it could be perceived as gambling on a match]," Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman and commissioner, told the Times of India, "But the margin of something like that happening is one in a million. If this game works, fine. If not, then we will leave it aside."
George Tomeski, managing partner of 6UP, the competition in concern, was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times that the strategy team had taken legal consultation. "We have taken a legal opinion at the highest level and have spoken to former solicitor generals. They found it to be a skill game, not betting," he said. "To influence the outcome of an over, one needs to approach and convince more than one player. The outcome of an over isn't determined by a single player, everyone present on the field plays a role in it."