In the midst of the growing clamour to legalise sports betting in India in light of the Justice Lodha Committee recommendations, Union Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda, in an interview to Economic Times has said that efforts should be taken to ‘eliminate’ betting instead of legalising it. Gowda further added that betting legalisation can be thought at a later stage indicating that the issue was not on the government’s agenda at the present moment.
Here is Gowda’s exact response to the question posed by Economic Times.
Q. The Lodha committee has recommended that betting in cricket be legalised. What is your view on this?
Gowda: The suggestion can be considered if at all we are unable to curtail it (betting). The present rules provide for elimination (of betting) to a large extent. We should, as of now, go ahead with the elimination before considering its legalisation.
Gowda’s assertion that the present rules provide for ‘elimination of betting to a large extent’ is rather surprising and indicates that he has not done preliminary research on the subject. The existing gaming statutes are vague and ambiguous with most persons accused of gambling or betting being let off with a fine of few hundred rupees. In fact, according to some interpretations and as a Delhi district court recently noted, cricket betting may fall within the ‘games of skill’ exemption and therefore may not even be a criminal offence.
Secondly, since gambling and betting is a state subject, it would have been more appropriate if Gowda just responded saying that the issue should be decided by individual state governments rather than taking a definitive stand. Nevertheless, Gowda’s response indicates that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which with its allies is in power in at least 12 states, is not keen to take up the issue of gambling legalisation anytime in the near future.