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Gaming

Betting of ₹225 Crore on a Single TN Premier League Match on Betfair

The Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) of the BCCI has recently submitted a confidential report to the board, raising concerns about domestic T20 Leagues, highlighting betting of a sum of around Rs. 225 crore on a single small state level league match in India on the international betting website Betfair.

ACU, in its concern over betting on domestic T20 Leagues like TNPL, has even asked BCCI to consider shutting down such leagues.

The said report revealed to the board that a Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) T20 match this year between Tuti Patriots and Madurai Panthers saw betting of a whopping sum of Rs. 225 crore (approximately 24 million pounds) on betting exchange website Betfair, which incidentally geo-blocked access from Indian IP addresses earlier this year.

The report also states how Betfair, after receiving betting of such unusually high amount on a state-level Indian league, stopped taking any bets on matches involving the TNPL franchise Tuti Patriots.

As per an official of Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), the co-owners of Tuti Patriots were expelled on the advice of TNCA’s internal enquiry committee, as reported by The Indian Express.

ACU is also probing a case where a Mumbai Player raised a red fald over being approached by a team owner for spot-fixing in the T20 Mumbai League.

These incidents highlight the adverse entailments of the huge illegal and unbridled sports betting industry in India, which according to some estimates is worth more than $100 billion a year. In the past, questions have been raised and bills have been introduced in the Lok Sabha regarding the regulation of sports betting in the country.

Last year in July, the Law Commission of India submitted a Report titled ‘Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including in Cricket in India’  to the government, recommending making match fixing and sporting fraud criminal offences with stringent penalties. On a progressive note, the panel also suggested that an effective ban cannot be put on betting and gambling, then the parliament or state legislatures should consider legalising it with a strict regulatory framework and guidelines.

Based on these recommendations by the Law Commission, in December 2018, Congress MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member’s bill titled ‘Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018’  in the Lok Sabha to regulate sports betting and penalise match fixing. This bill aimed at preventing and penalising sports fraud in domestic and international events and overseeing and permitting online sports gaming through an effective regulatory and licensing framework.

So far, the cabinet’s response on this subject has unanimously noted that “Betting and Gambling” are State subjects and that individual state governments are free to take a decision on this matter.

A few months back, in an interview to Deccan Herald, Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju said that, ‘We have always had a major crackdown on gambling. Whenever we are aware of it, we don’t allow it. But I agree that some cases remain off the hook. The ministry will have to consult different States before taking a call on this. The scenarios are different in different States.’

In the Lok Sabha, a few months back, when asked whether the government intends to ban online betting websites, Union Minister for Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that “Betting and Gambling” are State subjects as per the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. States/UTs are primarily responsible for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of crimes related to betting and gambling through their law enforcement machinery.

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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

BCCI ACU chief calls for legalising betting

Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI’s) Anti Corruption Unit head Ajit Singh Shekhawat suggested that legalising betting and bringing a strong law against cheating in sport would help in tackling issues of match-fixing in cricket.

Shekhawat, who was the Director General of Police in Rajasthan before taking charge of BCCI’s Anti-corruption Unit in April 2018, gave his suggestions in an interview. This was after 12 cricketers, including national and international, reported corrupt approaches in the last one year, including the Tamil Nadu Premier League came under scanner for suspected activity and a woman cricketer also reported an approach from a bookie.

“It is not unstoppable. We probably require a law against it, a match-fixing law. If there is a clear law against it, police will also have a clear cut role,” Shekhawat said.

Legalised betting is another way to deal with corruption in the game, the ACU chief added and noted that such a move would also generate massive amount of tax revenue for the government.

“Maybe there could be a thinking about legalising gambling so that all this illegal business which goes on can be controlled. Legal betting will be done under some parameters and it can be controlled.

“It will also bring a huge amount of revenue for the government, close to what the excise department generates. The amount of money which is bet on sport is mindboggling,” said the retired IPS officer.

He said a move like this would also help keep a tab on the people involved as well as the money.

“Revenue is not the only consideration, there could be other issues which the government has in mind. I am not saying categorically that it should be legalised but it should be considered. It could be regulated when it is legalised, right now it is totally illegal.

Once it is legalised you will also get the data on who is betting and how much he is betting. And while doing that, make illegal betting tougher. Right now you can get away with a fine of few hundreds or a few thousands,” he noted.

Several independent bodies including the Supreme Court appointed Lodha and Mudgal committees on BCCI reforms, the Law Commission of India and some officials in the International Cricket Council (ICC) have advocated legalising and regulating betting to curb illegal activities and match-fixing.

The BCCI has however opposed any move to legalise betting in its submissions to the Supreme Court in 2016.

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Gaming

Dream11 acquires official partner rights of BCCI

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that Sporta Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (Dream11), LafargeHolcim (ACC Cement and Ambuja Cement) and Hyundai Motor India Ltd. have acquired the official partners’ rights for its international and domestic matches for the period 1st September 2019 to 31st March 2023.

The rights were acquired following the conclusion of the Expression of Interest process.

“The consolidated winning bids were at a price of Rs 222.74 crore to be paid for the 2019-23 home season. The consolidated winning bid was Rs 2.59 crore, which is at 72 % incremental value in comparison to the previous per match value of Rs 1.5 crore,” the BCCI said in a statement.

It was earlier reported that online payments and e-commerce behemoth Paytm and Dream11 were in the fray for the title sponsorship of BCCI domestic and international matches.

However, Paytm ultimately acquired the title sponsorship rights for the period 2019-23 at a price of Rs. 326.80 crores (Rs. 3.8 crores per match).

Dream11 is already the exclusive fantasy gaming partner for IPL, ICC, ISL, Big Bash and other marquee domestic and international sporting events.

Earlier this month it was reported that South African technology conglomerate Naspers may acquire a stake worth $100 million in Dream11 at a valuation of $2.5 billion.

In April 2019, the Dream11 board changed its company name from Dream11 Fantasy Private Limited to Sporta Technologies Private Limited, in a bid to venture into other sporting activities and events. The change in name has been approved by the Registrar of Companies (ROC).

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Gaming

Dream11 partners with BCCI to become official fantasy sports partner of IPL

Dream11, the largest fantasy sports website in the country has announced that it has partnered with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to become the official fantasy gaming partner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for a period of four years.

The 4-year exclusive partnership will begin with the upcoming 2019 edition of IPL starting 23rd March. The deal will include Dream11’s  brand integrations and on-ground activations at various touch points in the IPL matches. The company will also be launching various multi-media advertising campaigns.

Commenting on the announcement, Harsh Jain, founder and CEO of Dream11 said, “We are very excited to partner with the BCCI and provide an engaging cricketing experience for the IPL, which is the pinnacle of sports leagues in India. Dream11 is deeply integrating with the IPL, which is set to grow from its 1.4 billion TV impressions and 200 million online viewers in 2018, to achieve our goal of growing from 51 million users to 100 million users in 2019. It’s great to see how our dream of making fantasy sports intrinsic to sports fan engagement has come true.”

The Committee of Administrators (CoA) of BCCI noted in a statement, “The online viewership of IPL is growing each year and it’s essential for us to engage with the fans on digital platforms as well. Partnering with the biggest fantasy sports platform in India, Dream11 will help us in further increasing the popularity of the IPL amongst cricket fans.”

Dream11 has already signed agreements to be the official fantasy game partner of International Council of Cricket (ICC), Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), Indian Super League (ISL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Caribbean Premier League (CPL), International Hockey Federation (FIH) and Big Bash League (BBL).

The company had recently announced that it had crossed the landmark of five crore registered users. Few days ago, it was reported that UK based Alternative Asset Management firm Steadview Capital was looking to invest US$100 million in Dream11 at a US$1.3 billion-US$1.5 billion valuation in a secondary capital.

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Legal & Regulatory

SC says Lodha committee recommendation to legalise betting falls in the domain of legislature

The Supreme Court pronounced its order on the recommendations of the Lodha committee report today, asking the BCCI to implement a majority of the suggestions given by the 3-member panel.

The apex court accepted the recommendations of banning Ministers from holding positions and put an age cap of 70 on members. It also accepted the recommendation of one state, one vote, with the exception of Maharashtra and Gujarat, which will have three units. The SC also ruled that the Lodha panel will itself see the transition from the old to the new regime of BCCI.

However, on the issue of legalising betting in India, which was one of the major recommendations of the Lodha committee, the Supreme Court noted (in the obiter dicta or non-binding portion of the judgment) that it is up to the Government or Law Commission to decide whether betting can be legalised in the country, implying that individual state governments or the centre should be tasked with the policy decision and that the judiciary does not want to indulge in policy making. It remains to be seen whether the legislature will pay heed to the remarks of the Supreme Court and formulate a policy on the issue.

The Supreme Court in its order observed as under:

So also the recommendation made by the Committee that betting should be legalized by law, involves the enactment of a Law which is a matter that may be examined by the Law Commission and the Government for such action as it may consider necessary in the facts and circumstances of the case.

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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Not in favour of legalising betting, BCCI tells SC

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has told the Supreme Court that betting on cricket matches is not feasible unless a central law to legalize sports betting is enacted and it is against such a law, as per media reports.

Senior Advocate KK Venugopal when asked by a bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur on Lodha committee’s recommendation to legalise cricket betting in the country, said that betting was prohibited by state gaming legislations. “Betting and gambling are prohibited by law in different states. The BCCI does not support betting,” Venugopal is reported to have told the Supreme Court.

Earlier, a committee headed by former Chief Justice of India Rajendra Mal Lodha had suggested legalising, licensing and regulating betting to prevent fraud and cheating in cricket matches. In contrast to Venugopal’s position in court, BCCI Secretary and BJP MP Anurag Thakur had earlier indicated that the apex cricketing board was amenable to the idea of legalising cricket betting.

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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Breaking news: Lodha committee recommends legalising sports betting

A committee headed by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, which was tasked with inter alia ‘recommending changes to prevent sporting frauds, conflict of interests, streamlining the working of BCCI to make it more responsive to the expectations of the public at large and to bring transparency in practices and procedures’ submitted its final report to the Supreme Court today. In its voluminous report, the Lodha committee makes several recommendations relating to appointment and elections of office-bearers of BCCI and state associations, participation of former cricketers and professionals, limiting tenures of office-bearers, ushering greater transparency and accounting standards etc.

Interestingly however, the Committee has dedicated a Chapter on curbing the malaise of match-fixing and legalising sports betting. Titled ‘Match-fixing and Betting’ Chapter IX of the Report makes the following key observations pertaining to legalising cricket betting and having a stringent law against cheating in sport:

It is not surprising therefore, that it has also attracted the interest of the wagering community. With only horse-racing legally permissible in India, those interested in betting have gone underground, with illegal bookies managing affairs. As is inevitable, the hawala system has awakened to these channels and money laundering has also become an inevitable outcome.

There is a fundamental difference between betting and match/spot-fixing. The latter interferes with the integrity of the game and attempts to change the course of the match. It is tampering the game by the cricket players to benefit a few. On the other hand, betting is a general malaise indulged by different sections of society, not only with reference to cricket but other games also. While the issue of betting can be effectively dealt with by providing a legal framework, match/spot-fixing is neither pardonable nor a matter for regulation. The only way to deal with it is by making it a criminal offence punishable by law. The Committee recommends appropriate amendments by the legislature.

As far as Betting alone is concerned, many of the respondents before the Committee were of the view that it would serve both the game and economy if it were legalized as has been done in the United Kingdom. It cannot be overlooked that the worldwide legal sports betting market is worth over 400 billion dollars. However, with the interest of cricket being foremost in our minds, it would always be necessary to protect and invoke transparency from those involved in the game.

While it is our recommendation that the legislatures ought to legalize betting in cricket, these must be with the following safeguards:

  1. Regulatory watchdogs would be necessary to ensure that the betting houses as well as those transacting there are strictly monitored, failing which their registrations would be susceptible to cancellation.
  2. The Players, Administrators and others closely associated with the sport would be required to furnish the details of their incomes and assets for the sake of transparency.
  3. Licenses would have to be issued to those placing the bets as well, with age and identification details recorded.
  4. Strict penal sanctions would have to be imposed on those transgressing the license and other requirements.

Needless to say, betting by Administrators, Players, Match Officials, Team Officials, Owners, etc., shall continue to be an offence under the BCCI and IPL Rules & Regulations.

These observations of the Lodha committee report will be treated by the Supreme Court as non-binding recommendations. State and central governments are unlikely to take cognisance of these recommendations and frame a comprehension legislation legalising betting and gambling anytime in the near future, given that betting is a sensitive socio-political issue.

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Gaming

Vindoo Dara Singh, bookies plead innocence, claim cricket-betting no offence; claims unlikely to be accepted

In growing drama over the IPL-fixing and betting scandal, Satish Maneshinde lawyer of accused actor/middleman and alleged fixer Vindoo Dara Singh admitted that Vindoo has been placing bets and running a bookmaking venture of sorts but claimed that there is no criminal liability for betting as per the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887 and other laws.

Son-in-law of BCCI President N Srinivasan; Gurunath Meiyappan has also claimed that he was indulging in betting but denied any wrongdoing.

Maneshinde cited the landmark 1996 KR Lakshmanan decision to put forth his claim that sports betting is not a criminal offence in India. Other experts, eminent jurists and even FICCI claims that sports betting may not be a criminal offence in India. They also state that it is very difficult to secure a conviction for cricket betting and there is no precedence convicting bookmakers/punters.

Cricket betting is clearly illegal as per Indian laws

While the claims that there has been no convictions affirmed in higher courts for sports betting is true, it is difficult to believe that there is no criminal liability for bookmakers (and by consequence they are to be allowed a free run under current laws) for the following reasons:

1.  The reliance on Dr. KR Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu placed by the very eminent lawyers is misplaced. The Lakshmanan decision merely stated that horse-racing is a game of skill and by consequence betting on horse-racing in a regulated manner in race-courses would be permitted as a game of skill. Various other justifications and reasons including historical antecedents and an exception in statute for horse-racing were given to support the claim. There was no mention of cricket and sports betting being a game of skill.

2. The soundness of logic in the Lakshmanan decision can also be called into question as it obfuscated the difference between horse-racing and betting/speculation on horse-racing terming both these activities as games of skill. However, it is difficult to accept betting, wagering and speculation to be a game as it goes against the very definition of game (requiring active participation and one’s own abilities rather than speculation on others’ activities). The Bombay High Court has also held in Queen Empress v. Narottamdas Motiram, ILR 13 Bom 681 that betting is no game under the definition of the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887.

3. Even betting/speculation over telephone has been held to be enough to sustain conviction and meet the definition of common gaming house as per Bhagwandas Ghanshamdas v. Emperor, AIR 1940 Sind 28. Further, books of accounts, phones have been held to be instruments of gaming hence the phone conversations, accounts acquired etc. would be enough to sustain conviction of the accused.

4. Even assuming that sports betting is a game of skill, it is difficult to assume that all forms of bets on sports such as session betting, ball-by-ball betting and speculation on individual scores and even the toss (which is the regular pattern of accepting bets) can be held to be game of skill. Such blatant speculation the outcome of which is clearly speculative and uncertain cannot under any circumstance be held to be a game of skill.

5. Given the high-profile nature of this case, the matter is certain to go to higher courts and one can expect authoritative decision on criminal liability for fixing, cheating in sport and betting.