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Events

FICCI & AIGF organise knowledge session on integrity in sports

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) jointly hosted a knowledge session for government officials, sports federation office-bearers and the media on ‘Integrity in sports and the need for regulating sports betting’ in New Delhi on 24th July.

The event saw guests like senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor, former Law Commission of India Chairman Dr. Balbir Singh Chauhan, Rajya Sabha MP KTS Tulsi and former footballer Bhaichung Bhutia discuss the benefits of a regulatory framework for the online gaming industry and the pitfalls of not having a law to penalise sporting fraud.

Welcoming the gathering and setting the tone for the evening Siddharth Upadhyay, Co-Chair, FICCI Sports committee said, “FICCI has been a torchbearer in the field of sports development & propagating the idea of sports as an industry. We are thrilled to organize an event of this stature, wherein experts have gathered to talk about the importance of regularizing the gaming and sports industry.”

David Foster, Head of Regulatory Affairs of leading global online gaming giant GVC Holdings, while addressing the audience via video conference highlighted the importance of integrity in sports and stated, “Positive conduct by athletes, administrators, officials, supporters and other stakeholders, on and off the sporting arena is extremely important. This enhances the reputation and standing of the sporting contest and of sports overall.”

Dr. Shashi Tharoor in his address to the gathering said, “Long-term prognosis for sports and betting is bleak if corruption is not dealt with. While self-regulatory practices need to be followed by the industry, there is an urgent need to have a statutory framework with government oversight to ensure service providers are following license conditions to track suspicious betting patterns and to have some control over the money flow to curb the generation of black money.”

Tharoor added that while the private member’s bill introduced by him, namely the Sports (Online Gaming & Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018 has lapsed due to the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha, he would be meeting Union Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju and present him a copy of the Private Member’s Bill drafted by him, with the request that the government bring out a Bill of its own on the issue and address the menace of sports fraud and urgent need for regulation of sports betting.

KTS Tulsi agreed with Tharoor and added that he would also raise the issue in the Rajya Sabha and introduce a private member’s Bill similar to Tharoor’s.

The event also saw Amar Gahlot, Advocate – Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan attorneys and former IRS officer present a white paper highlighting the ‘Economic Impact of Regulation on Gambling and Betting’.

Summing up the event, AIGF CEO Roland Landers noted, “With the proliferation of sports leagues and the development of the sports ecosystem in India, it has become a major source of commerce and revenue for many entities, especially in the field of betting or gaming in connection with sporting events. Though each Indian state have their own Gaming Acts, what is ideally required is a central regulation.”

Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Shashi Tharoor’s Bill to regulate online sports gaming deserves consideration by the government

Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member’s bill, namely, the Sports (Online Gaming & Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018 in the Lok Sabha on 28 December 2018.

The Bill, largely based on the Law Commission of India’s recommendations in its 276th Report, has been introduced with the purpose of dealing with two separate but connected topics that the government has made little attempt to focus on:

(i) penalising match-fixing and manipulation of domestic and international sporting events; and

(ii) creating an over-arching national regulatory and licensing framework for overseeing and permitting online sports gaming in the country, subject to numerous safeguards and guidelines.

The first part of the Bill deals with creating an offence of ‘sports fraud’ which includes manipulation of the result of a domestic or international sporting event in exchange for illegal gratification, disclosure of inside information, misrepresentation of a participant’s age, etc.

The second part of the Bill deals with the creation of a seven-member national-level Online Sports Gaming Commission that is tasked with regulating and licensing all online sports gaming in the country, coordinating with law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal online sports betting and monitoring suspicious betting patterns with a view to identifying and tracking manipulation of sports games.

Online sports gaming has been defined in the Bill to include prediction on the result of a sporting event and placing a bet on the whole or part of the outcome of a sporting event through a telecommunication device. Importantly, the Online Sports Gaming Commission will be empowered under the proposed legislation to issue rules to impose various restrictions on betting on sports matches to ensure that people are able to engage in sports gaming in a limited manner.

The kind of restrictions that can be imposed by the commission includes limiting access to online sports gaming websites to people of certain age groups like minors, the fees to be charged for betting, restriction on giving credit facilities for betting, etc. The Bill also makes a provision empowering the central government to allow, by notification, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) including foreign technological collaboration in licensed Online Sports Gaming websites. Both the portions of the proposed legislation, the first one attempting to curb the menace of cheating in sport and the second one to regulate and control online sports betting in the country try to fix important lacunae in the law. The issue of bringing a strong law to criminalise match-fixing has been put on the back-burner by the current government.

The UPA government, in 2013, tried to draft legislation to prevent sporting fraud, which however could not make progress due to inter alia, the parliamentary logjam prevailing during the period. Without a specific law dealing with sporting fraud, it is almost impossible to punish sportspersons and others involved in IPL type spot-fixing and cheating scandals. Under the current laws, the provisions that the law enforcement authorities invoke against erring sportspersons and other persons involved in fixing syndicates is cheating under the Indian Penal Code and charges under some state organised crime legislation like Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

However, it is plausible to argue that the definition of cheating under IPC does not envisage the offence of manipulation of sporting events. Indeed, the same line of argument was noted by Patiala court judge Neena Krishna Bansal in 2015, while discharging cricketers S. Sreesanth and bookmakers accused of fixing IPL matches. Till date, no sportsperson has ever been convicted of fixing or cheating due to the absence of any specific law on the subject. The only punitive action that can be enforced against erring sportspersons is by the sporting association – that of banning that particular person from participating in competitive sports.

Even that action can be scrutinized and challenged in court and can be overturned on procedural and other grounds, as was successfully done by former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin. Consequently, there is no effective deterrent today to prevent cricketers and other sportspersons from brazenly indulging in match manipulation. The attempt to bring strong punitive action against those indulging in fixing is thus a welcome attempt to address the lacunae in present laws. Similarly, the attempt to regulate online sports betting at a federal is a welcome step for a variety of reasons. First, whilst betting and gambling is a state subject under the Constitution, it may be impossible for individual states to regulate activity on the internet, where state and national boundaries often get blurred.

Therefore, it would be best for online sports betting to be regulated by an independent body under a Central law, where operators can be licensed under a specific and stringent set of guidelines, which include placing betting limits, restriction on betting/gambling advertisements, restriction on minors from accessing betting websites etc. Regulation of online sports betting under a central law, while leaving physical forms of betting and gambling for states to legislate is a constitutionally tenable proposition.

Central legislation on online sports betting, while leaving out other forms of gambling, including offline gambling, as proposed by Tharoor, can be done by invoking the parliament’s jurisdiction to legislate on telecommunication and inter-state trade and commerce. Secondly, permitting regulated online sports betting under oversight from a regulatory body makes it possible to monitor betting trends, including suspicious trends. For instance, if there has been heavy betting on a particular improbable outcome in a game, and if that improbable outcome materialises, it may be possible to trace and investigate the source of the bet and check whether the bettor had any inside information or connections with any sportsperson or support staff.

Thirdly, the laws penalising sports betting, particularly online sports betting are not clear. Most state gaming legislation are governed by archaic Gaming Acts that neither envisages online gambling or betting. Further, games of skill are exempted from the definition of gambling and betting (in most states), and a 1996 Supreme Court judgment stated that horse racing, being a game of skill, betting or wagering on it cannot be a criminal offence.

A similar analogy can be drawn to betting on cricket or other sports, which are also games of skill. Indeed, such observations have been made by the district judge in the Sreesanth case mentioned above, while noting that betting on cricket, being a game of skill does not amount to any offence. Thus, when an activity like sports betting continues unabated and no strong punitive action is possible, it would be worthwhile to legalise and tax the activity and allow the state to earn revenues, rather than leaving the business in the hands of underworld syndicates who are known to launder and channelise profits from cricket betting to other nefarious criminal and terror-related activities.

Studies suggest that the size of the sports betting market in India is anywhere between US$60-130 billion. Even by conservative estimates, at least Rs. 15,000-20,000 crores can be earned by the government by way of taxes. Allowing the sports gaming industry to be carried out in a streamlined manner also opens up avenues for employment and technological innovation. While all the issues of match-fixing and sports betting are worth legislating upon, it is well known that private member’s bill rarely get discussed extensively and it is even rarer for such bills to pass in both houses of parliament.

Tharoor therefore in a series of tweets put out after introducing the Bill, noted that his aim was to put the legislation out in the public domain for discussion and that it was incumbent upon the government to facilitate their enactment. One hopes that the government takes note of Tharoor’s plea and moves in the direction of introducing legislation to prevent match-fixing and regulating sports betting.

Note: The article was first published in The Statesman on 10th January, 2019 and is available here.

Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Shashi Tharoor introduces Sports (Online Gaming & Prevention of Fraud) Bill; read the salient features of the proposed law

As scheduled, senior Congress MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor introduced the Sports (Online Gaming & Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018 in the Lok Sabha yesterday.

The Bill, aimed to establish an effective regime for maintaining the integrity of sports and regulation of online sports gaming, deals with two separate but connected issues: (i) penalising match-fixing and manipulation of domestic and international sporting events; and (ii) creating an over-arching national regulatory and licensing framework for overseeing and permitting online sports gaming in the country, subject to numerous safeguards and guidelines.

The first part of the Bill deals with creating an offence of ‘sports fraud’ which includes manipulation of the result of a domestic or international sporting event in exchange of an illegal gratification, disclosure of inside information, misrepresentation of a sports participants age etc.

The second part of the Bill deals with the creation of a seven-member national-level Online Sports Gaming Commission that is tasked with regulating and licensing all online sports gaming in the country, coordinating with law enforcement agencies to crackdown on illegal online sports betting and monitoring suspicious betting patterns with a view to identifying and tracking manipulation of sports games.

Online sports gaming has been defined in the Bill to include prediction on the result of a sporting event and placing a bet on the whole or part of the outcome of a sporting event through a telecommunication device.

Importantly, the Online Sports Gaming Commission is empowered under the proposed legislation to issue rules to impose various restrictions on betting on sports matches to ensure that people are able to engage in sports gaming in a limited manner.

The kind of restrictions that can be imposed by the commission include limiting access to online sports gaming websites to people of certain age groups like minors, the fees to be charged for betting, restriction on giving credit facilities for betting etc.

The Bill also makes a provision empowering the central government to allow, by notification, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) including foreign technological collaboration in licensed Online Sports Gaming websites.

As expounded by Dr. Tharoor on social networking website Twitter, the Bill (along with three other Bills introduced by him yesterday) are ‘an attempt to expand our freedoms’ and can become a law only if the government of the day agrees to facilitate their enactment in Parliament. Dr. Tharoor, therefore urged the cooperation of the government and Lok Sabha in allowing passage of the Bill introduced by him.

Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Shashi Tharoor to introduce new Bill in Lok Sabha to regulate sports betting, penalise match-fixing

Exclusive Thiruvananthapuram MP and senior Congress leader Dr. Shashi Tharoor is going to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to regulate sports betting and penalise match-fixing in the lower house of parliament later today, as per the revised list of business issued by the Lok Sabha secretariat.

The Bill, titled the Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018 is aimed to introduce an effective regime to maintain the integrity of sports in India by preventing and penalising sports fraud and for regulation of online sports gaming, as per the Lok Sabha’s agenda.

The private member’s bill is expected to focus on defining and creating a new offence of sports fraud that will prevent manipulation of sports matches. The Bill may also establish a national level regulatory framework to license and regulate online sports betting with certain restrictions and guidelines.

The Law Commission in its 276th Report titled ‘Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including in Cricket in India’ submitted to the government in July this year had recommended that match-fixing and sporting fraud should be made a criminal offence with stringent penalties. The law panel had also noted that if betting and gambling cannot be effectively banned, then parliament or state legislatures should consider legalising it under a strict regulatory framework and subject to several guidelines.

Subject to smooth functioning of the Lok Sabha today, Dr. Tharoor’s Bill is scheduled to come up for introduction and a brief speech. The reaction of parliamentarians from various parties, particularly of the treasury benches would be interesting to see, especially since the legislation deals with something that was recommended by the Law Commission of India.

Categories
Gaming

Actor Arbaaz Khan embroiled in IPL betting case

Bollywood actor Arbaaz Khan has been summoned by the Thane police in Maharashtra for questioning over betting on Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches, as per media reports.

Khan has been asked to record his statement by the Thane police. His name reportedly came up while the police were interrogating a bookie, Sonu Jalan, who was arrested on Tuesday. Sonu Jalan is said to run an international gambling operation stretching from India to the Middle East.

Actor-producer Arbaaz Khan is the younger brother of Bollywood superstar Salman Khan.The police are believed to be investigating allegations that he placed bets during the recent IPL season through Sonu Jalan. Jalan was allegedly trying to extort money from him.

Sonu Jalan allegedly had a diary with details of clients and bookies. The police say he worked for a kingpin of cricket betting who goes by the name of “Junior Kolkata”.

Jalan, according to reports, was first arrested in 2008 for IPL betting. He allegedly has links with Karachi-based fugitive terrorist and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

Another film personality, Vindu Dara Singh, was arrested in 2013 by the Mumbai police for cricket betting and spot-fixing. He was later released on bail. The cash-rich IPL has been marred by gambling and fixing controversies since it started in 2008.

The 2013 spot-fixing scandal led to the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals being suspended for two seasons and S Sreesanth, a Rajasthan Royals bowler, being banned for life along with teammates Ankit Chavan and Ajit Chandila.

It is not clear if the current investigation is only related to a cricket betting racket run by underworld syndicates and whether there is a spot-fixing angle linked to the current probe.

Categories
Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Jaya Bachchan asks about AIGF whitepaper and betting legalisation in Parliament, govt non-committal

Exclusive Senior Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) and actress Jaya Bachchan, recently raised a question about regulating online gambling and betting and the Law Commission’s proposed study on the subject.

Bachchan raised this query by way of an unstarred question in the ongoing budget session of the parliament. The query’s reply was tabled by Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs and Sport, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on 8th February, 2018.

Bachchan in her queries sought to know whether demands have been made by various sections to legalise and regulate online sports betting. She also sought to know whether gaming industry lobby group, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), had submitted any white paper to the Law Commission of India on the subject and the details and status of the report.

She further sought to know whether India intends to sign any agreement with the United Kingdom on the subject and also whether the central government had studied the social ramifications of legalising betting.

Rathore in his reply on behalf of the government stated that the Law Commission of India is studying the matter in light of the order of the Supreme Court in Board of Control for Cricket in India vs. Cricket Association of Bihar & Others (based on the Lodha committee’s suggestion to legalise cricket betting).

He further stated that the Commission has received various suggestions and responses from various stakeholders, including AIGF. He further noted that ‘since the matter involves social ramifications and important questions of Law, it needs wider consultation and detailed examination’. The Minister refused to give a time frame by which the Law Commission would be able to give its recommendations.

Incidentally, many other MPs have also been concerned about the Law Commission’s research on legalising sports at betting and the issue of match-fixing in sports.  As per details available online, at least seven other Lok Sabha MPs and one other Rajya Sabha MP have also raised similar queries on the issue of gambling and betting.

AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP R. Vaithilingam’s query on the Law Commission’s study was also given a similar response by Union Minister PP Chaudhary on 9th February, 2017.

Prof. Sadhu Singh, R. Vanaroja, Prem Singh Yadav and Tejpratap Yadav raised similar queries on the issue of legalising gambling and betting in August 2017.

Union Minister Vijay Goel while jointly responding to the queries, stated that FICCI has started a discussion on the issue and the Law Commission is also studying the matter. He also stated that the government is aware about the social ramifications of the issue but has not done any detailed study of the matter. He did not give any time frame by which the government would decide on the matter.

Lok Sabha MPs Ashwini Kumar and P. Nagaraj also raised similar questions on the government’s initiative to legalise betting which received the same non-committal reply.

Other lower house MPs like Varun Gandhi, Gopal Shetty and Lakhan Lal Sahu raised concerns about rampant betting and match-fixing in cricket matches. The government replied by giving details about the action taken by the Mumbai and Delhi police in response to the 2013 IPL spot-fixing and betting scam as well as measures undertaken by BCCI to ensure that such cheating in cricket games does not take place in future.

Categories
Gaming

New match-fixing allegations mar IPL 10

The latest edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been marred by fresh allegations of match-fixing to manipulate the outcome of the matches.

The Uttar Pradesh police recently arrested three bookmakers from a hotel in Kanpur where players of the  Gujarat Lions and Daredevils team were also hosted. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)  through a press release had informed on Thursday that the Anti Corruption Unit of the BCCI had been tracking activities of these men before they were arrested.

The police has also stated that two Gujarat Lions cricketers might be involved in fixing matches. However, the malaise of fixing the outcomes of the games, or at least some part of the outcome is said to run deeper than what it appears. According to some reports, there might be other matches that could also come under the fixing scanner if investigated thoroughly.

In 2013, a major spot-fixing scandal had rocked IPL and the cricketing world, resulting in the banning of cricketers Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan for their alleged involvement in the scandal. Others associated with franchisees such as Raj Kundra and Guruanth Meiyappan were also banned from participating in any kind of cricketing activities by the Supreme Court.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and other expert bodies have indicated that legalising betting could be a solution to the problem of match-fixing and spot-fixing as legal betting would result in transparency on the punters involved in betting, source of funds of bettors and also allow law enforcement agencies to track suspicious betting patterns.

Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Law Commission of India exploring the feasibility of legalising sports betting

The Law Commission of India, a body that advises the government is examining gambling and betting related legislations. The Commission is also said to be discussing whether sports betting should be legalised in India. Justice (retired) Balbir Singh Chauhan, Chairman of the Law Commission told Hindustan Times that they are examining all legal aspects concerning betting in sports.

Justice Chauhan added, “In many countries betting in sports is legal but situations are different there. We will study all the aspects.” He also said that the Law Commission will write to all stakeholders concerned with betting and gambling and hear their views. He also added that the Law Commission is also looking at measures to usher more transparency in sporting bodies and examining whether BCCI can be brought within the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

In the past couple of years, Justice Lodha and Justice Mudgal committees, appointed by the Supreme Court to examine the IPL betting and fixing scandal had recommended legalising cricket betting as a measure to curtail cheating and fixing.

The Supreme Court in its order dated 18th July, 2016 had asked the government and Law Commission of India to look into the possibility of legalising betting and whether a new law needs to be enacted for the same. The relevant portion of the order read as follows:

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.

The 20th Law Commission headed by Justice (retired) AP Shah had in 2014 noted that the Public Gambling Act, 1867 is one of the archaic pre-independence laws that needs to be studied and if required, repealed or amended.

Categories
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.

Categories
Gaming Legal & Regulatory

BJP MP supports legalising betting as an option to curb fixing

After former Chief Justice of India (CJI) RM Lodha, former Chief Justice of the Punjab & Haryana Mukul Mudgal and Rajya Sabha MP KTS Tulsi, it is now the turn of ruling party MP Anurag Thakur to support the idea of legalising sports betting.

Thakur, who is also the Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and belongs to an influential political family, while giving an interview to TV channel NewsX noted that the government should consider regulating sports betting as an option to curtail match-fixing.

Thakur is perhaps the most influential person so far to have publicly approved of the idea of legal gambling as a prudent option for the state to earn tax revenues and curtail cheating and manipulation. However his party colleague and Union Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda had earlier rejected the idea of legalising betting, saying that the government must try to curtail it instead.

NewsX had an interesting debate on the subject as a follow-up to Thakur’s comments, where suspended BJP MP and former cricketer Kirti Azad opposed the idea of legalising cricket betting stating that the time is not yet ripe as Indians are not mature enough to understand the risks associated with gambling. Azad added that households will be destroyed due to betting as the move will affect those from lower income groups.

However, Thakur’s idea was supported by sports lawyer Vidushpat Singhania and noted journalist Ayaz Memon, both of whom stated that regulated betting with checks and balances was the best way for the state to fill up its coffers and prevent sporting fraud.