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Law commission recommends regulation of betting and gambling; one member gives dissenting opinion

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After more than one year of deliberations and research, the Law Commission of India led by its Chairman, Justice (retd.) BS Chauhan, has finally submitted its 276th Report titled ‘Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including in Cricket in India’ to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The Commission in its 145 page report, goes into lengthy detail on the history of gambling in India as well as other ancient civilisations like Greece and Rome. The report also traces the current laws and constitutional provisions relating to gambling.

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Further, the report states that legalising gambling and betting is not desirable in India in the present scenario. It recommends that state authorities should ensure enforcement of a complete ban on unlawful betting and gambling.

However, the commission goes on to mention that since it is impossible to completely prevent gambling/betting activities, regulation is the only viable option and regulating betting is also beneficial for generating revenues and employment.

The commission therefore recommended that parliament should pass a law to regulate gambling and betting, either using its powers to regulate media and electronic communication or pass a model law that may be adopted by state governments.

The report further suggested that  Aadhaar or PAN cards of an individual indulging in betting and gambling should be linked to avoid money-laundering and fraud. It further stated that two types of betting should be allowed, i.e. ‘proper gambling’  and ‘small gambling’.

Proper gambling of high stakes can only be indulged in by persons of higher income levels while persons of lower income groups can only place bets of small stakes. The number of bets to be placed in a particular month or year also ought to be capped, according the law panel.

The commission also suggested many other safeguards like preventing those below poverty line and minors from accessing betting and gambling avenues, using only electronic means for payment for gambling transactions etc.

Notably, the commission also suggested that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) should be allowed in the gambling and betting sector, including for online gaming and casinos.

However, in an unusual step, one of the members of the Law Commission, Prof (Dr.) S. Sivakumar, disagreed with the commission’s report and criticised the approach taken by the law panel in strong terms.

Sivakumar in his dissenting note stated that the issue of gambling legalisation was not referred to it in the first place and the Supreme Court had only asked the commission to look into the matter of cricket betting legalisation as recommended by the Lodha committee.

He further stated that the socio-economic and cultural circumstances of the country are not pragmatic to accept legalised gambling activities, as it is still treated as a social stigma.

He further stated that the time is not ripe for legalising gambling due to widespread poverty prevalent in the country.

Sivkaumar opined that no form of gambling can be permitted from the soil of the country.

Jay has researched extensively on gaming laws and has been cited by various media houses and journals as an expert. He has helped leading newspapers in their stories on gaming laws. Jay completed his B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) degree from NUJS, Kolkata in 2015 and is currently based out of Mumbai.