The Indian government is looking at proposals to legalize the country’s multi-million-dollar underground gambling market to tackle corruption in cricket, the Times of India reported yesterday.
India is regarded as the hotbed of global betting syndicates, with gamblers and bookmakers involved in a massive network of illegal “spot-fixing” — when stakes are pitched on individual balls or on short passages of play.
“The aim is to ascertain whether legalized betting can exist in India without the stigma attached to it now. So, we are looking at the pros and cons with great care,” an unnamed sport ministry official told the newspaper.
The shady world of Indian bookmakers came to light in a match-fixing scandal in 2000 that led to life bans for Test captains Hansie Cronje (South Africa), Mohammad Azharuddin (India) and Salim Malik (Pakistan).
That scandal broke when New Delhi police, working on an unrelated extortion case, taped a conversation between Cronje and an alleged bookmaker.
Three Pakistani players currently touring England have been charged by the International Cricket Council, cricket’s governing body, under its anti-corruption code after press allegations of spot-fixing.
The Times said in a front-page editorial that the ban on sports gambling “only pushes it underground, making it lucrative for criminal elements.”
It also suggested a link between illegal gambling and militant activity, saying the ban “creates a dangerous situation in which money can flow between gambling, drugs and even terror.”
Gambling in India is illegal except at horse races and a handful of casinos in Goa and Sikkim, although a number of other local legislatures now permit lottery gaming.
Legal sports gambling in India could prove a major tax revenue for the government, as well as allow for official regulation.
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