Can betting in sports be legalised in India?

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The Supreme Court has agreed To Hear a public interest litigation, seeking from the apex court a direction to the Government to frame a law to legalise betting on sports in India.

The Supreme Court decided on Friday to examine whether betting and gambling could be legalised in sports, which at present is prohibited and punishable under law. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar agreed to hear a PIL seeking its direction to the government to frame law to allow and regulate betting in sports. The court said it would take up the issue along with the case pending before it on cricket reforms, report Times of India.

Senior advocate R S Suri and lawyer Reepak Kansal, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that legalising betting would be beneficial to the country and the government would be able to generate revenue of around Rs 12,000 crore a year by bringing earnings from gambling and betting under the tax net. They said allowing betting would also enable the government to curb corrupt activities like match-fixing in sports.

“The calls for regulating betting have been made because unregulated betting is an immense loss to the country and also because regulation of this activity would enable the government to distinguish between harmless betting and corrupt activities like match fixing. The total betting market (in India) is Rs 3 lakh crore,“ the petitioner said.

“Regulating the existing system will weed out the undesirable elements in the betting business and will bring more credible and genuine players over whom the government can have more control. As the business is unregulated, its players indulge in shady transactions. It is accepted that there are huge crime syndicates and mafia that control these business. Most of these syndicates are not even managed from within the country,“ the petition said.
Law Commission of India is already examining the issue and it has favoured a comprehensive legislation to legalise betting and gambling. Although it is yet to file its report, its chairman and former Supreme Court judge B S Chauhan has gone on record saying that a law should be made to regulate such activities instead of continuing with the ban.

“Development of gambling industry in India requires a three-pronged strategy -reforming the existing gambling (lottery, horse racing) market and legalising the present illegal market (introducing new products) while introducing stringent and over-arching regulations,“ he had said at a seminar.

Justice Lodha committee, which had filed a comprehensive report in SC on cricket reforms, had also said that the issue of legalising betting needed to be considered.

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