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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Kiren Rijiju non-committal on sports betting legalisation

Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju in an interview given to daily Deccan Herald last week, appeared to not give any clear answer on the issue of rampant betting in sports and whether it should be legalised.

The Sports Minister in his reply to a question on sports betting in the interview, noted that his ministry, whenever it is made aware about it, tries to imposed a crackdown on illegal betting activities. He also noted that different states have to be taken on board before a decision can be taken on the issue.

He told Deccan Herald, “These are things that have a bearing on society. For example, in many countries, consuming alcohol is banned. 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. Like Sikkim has permitted casinos. As I said, whatever we decide, will have a bearing on society.”

Rijiju’s stance is similar to the written replies given by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to a query in the Lok Sabha few months ago, on banning online betting websites. Prasad had stated that betting and gambling are state subjects and that individual state governments are free to take a decision on the matter.

Last year, the Law Minister had on a few occasions stated that the 276th report of the Law Commission of India, which had recommended legalising betting as one of the alternatives, was under consideration of the government, without giving any definitive details about whether the government intends to take any action on the issue.

Categories
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.”

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Gaming Legal & Regulatory

States free to decide on illegal betting websites, Delhi HC anti-betting PIL subjudice, says Minister

Union Minister for Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad tabled a reply to BJP MP Sudheer Gupta’s unstarred question in the Lok Sabha on whether the centre intends to ban online betting websites.

Responding to Gupta’s query, 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.

On the question of the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court against online betting and poker websites filed by social activist Avinash Mehrotra, the Minister responded by stating that the matter was subjudice, with the Ministries of Information Technology and Finance and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) being respondents in the case.

Prasad did not give any specific response on what the central government’s stand will be in the matter, but the reply in parliament indicates that the centre has effectively left it to individual state governments’ to decide on how they wish to tackle the issue of online gambling and betting.

Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Goel demands nationwide ban on lotteries

BJP leader and Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Vijay Goel demanded a nationwide ban on all forms of lotteries in a zero hour mention in the upper house of parliament yesterday.

While raising the matter, Goel said that lotteries leads to the poor losing their hard earned income and savings and noted that single digit lotteries were banned in the year 1998 and a new law the Lotteries (Regulation) Act was passed by the parliament.

He however noted that the ban on single digit lotteries is not sufficient and all forms of lotteries, including multi-digit lotteries, that are operating in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal, Punjab and Karnataka should be banned and that the central government should introduce a new law ensuring a nationwide ban on lottery sales.

Goel added that efforts were made to ensure a complete ban on lotteries in the year 1998 but the Bill demanding the same could not be passed due to the ‘lottery mafia’, despite signatures and support of 134 MPs.

The BJP MP also added that he does not want to speak about the irregularities in these lotteries but stated that he wanted to eliminate the social evil called lotteries that is plaguing the country since 1947, and appealed to all MPs to support his demand for a ban on all kinds of lotteries.

Several MPs cutting across party lines and states, including Ambika Soni (Congress), Manoj Kumar Jha (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Ram Kumar Kashyap (BJP) and Sushil Kumar Gupta (Aam Aadmi Party) associated themselves with Goel’s demand and endorsed his zero hour mention.

Vijay Goel, a former union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi cabinets, has been a staunch anti-lottery activist and has lead a crusade against lotteries operating in the countries for the last three decades.

Goel was instrumental in ensuring the passage of the Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998, that resulted in a ban single digit lotteries and imposed strict restrictions on sale of lotteries run by state governments.

Categories
Legal & Regulatory

Question on govt’s reaction to anti-betting PIL & plan to ban gaming sites reaches Parliament

Exclusive Sudheer Gupta, the BJP MP from Mandsaur (Madhya Pradesh) has raised an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha on whether the central government proposes to ban online betting websites.

The Member of Parliament has also raised a query on the Delhi High Court’s order last month declining interim blocking of online betting and poker websites and the government’s likely response to the notice issued by the High Court, in the PIL filed by social activist Avinash Mehrotra.

Gupta, in his query to Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Union Minister of Electronics, Information Technology, Law & Justice, has posed the following questions to the central government:

(a) whether the Government proposes to ban websites that encourage online betting, betting games, etc. and if so, the details thereof;

(b) whether the Delhi High Court has pronounced a judgement in which it refrained from a complete ban on such websites;

(c) if so, the details thereof and the reasons therefor; and

(d) whether the Delhi High Court has issued any notice to the Government in this regard, if so, the details thereof and the reaction of the Government thereto?

A response to Gupta’s query will be tabled in the Lok Sabha by the central government on 3rd July, 2019, as per details uploaded on the Lok Sabha website. Since the query has been marked as an unstarred question, the government is merely required to give a written response or a statement, without being obligated to answer any supplementary or follow-up questions.

The response given by the Minister will be keenly tracked since this will be the central government’s first official reaction to Mehrotra’s anti-betting PIL and will give an indication on whether the central government intends to impose a crackdown on online gaming and betting websites.

Read more about betting legal status in India.

Categories
Gaming

Shane Warne says Indian govt should have legalised gambling long time back; move will benefit all stakeholders

Legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne has come out strongly in support of legalising gambling and betting in India. Speaking to The Times of India in an exclusive interview, Warne when asked about his views on the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Unit’s study that India is a hub for illegal bookies and steps to curb the menace, unequivocally stated government of India should legalise gambling.

Stating that legalising and regulating gambling is a long overdue reform, Warne noted that legal gambling would ensure that big bets are tracked and suspicious betting patterns can be investigated. While stating that legal betting is already permitted in many countries, the legendary cricketer also added that legalising betting will ensure massive revenues for the government.

He further noted that whether gambling is legalised or not, many people will still indulge in it, and hence it is better to regulate the activity properly to ensure transparency.

Warne has been associated with the gaming industry for a long time and is an avid poker player himself. Until 2015, he was the brand ambassador for online poker website 888 poker. The retired cricketer is currently working as the brand ambassador and advisor to Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Rajasthan Royals.

Warne’s recent comments are in sync with advice from legal experts, jurists and cricket administrators, including the Law Commission of India who have all stated that legalising and regulating sports betting would be in the interest of ushering more transparency in the sport.

In December 2018, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member’s bill to regulate online sports betting and penalise match-fixing and cheating in sport. The Bill is currently pending discussion in parliament, although there is little hope of the Bill in its present form getting passed.

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 Legal & Regulatory

Six Lok Sabha MPs ask govt about betting legalisation, minister gives written reply

Six Members of Parliament (MPs) of the Lok Sabha raised an unstarred question in Parliament today on the central government’s plan to legalise and regulate betting and gambling in the country.

The six parliamentarians, R. Gopalakrishnan, C. Gopalakrishnan, K. Maragatham, P. Nagarajan (all from AIADMK); Raksha Khadse and Narendra Sawaikar (both from BJP) asked the government seven questions in relation to the Law Commission’s recommendation to regulate gambling and allow foreign investment in the casino sector as well as caps on bets and other proposed restrictions. The parliamentarians also sought to know the government’s reaction to the Law Commission’s suggestions.

PP Chaudhary, the Union Minister of State for Law, Justice and Corporate Affairs in a written response tabled in the Lok Sabha reiterated the Law Commission’s clarificatory press note which stated that legalising gambling and betting in India is not desirable in the present scenario, and that a complete ban on unlawful gambling and betting must be ensured .

He further added that the Law Commission’s report is under consideration of the government. The reply is very similar to Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s response to the Rajya Sabha last week on the Law Commission’s betting legalisation recommendations and the central government’s response.