Legislation allowing online sports betting in India, the world’s second most populous country, could be introduced in the next two years.
The country’s Sports Ministry is reported to have begun informal consultations with various stakeholders in the government, although India’s Sports Minister Vijay Goel has today denied that legislation will be fast tracked.
The Indian Express newspaper reports that the Sports Ministry is likely to seek assistance from its counterparts in the UK, with Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas likely to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which online sports betting will be one of the key points.
“The UK has one of the most effective gambling laws. We hope to understand their system and see if it is possible to introduce it in India,” a ministry official told the Indian Express.
Illegal sports betting in India is believed to be worth around $150bn, with local bookmakers and unregulated offshore website currently driving the sector.
The Sports Ministry believes tax revenues collected from betting could be diverted towards improving sports facilities in the country.
“The UK has overcome this (poor funding) through lottery and online betting. The department is preparing an MoU with the UK and the aspect of betting will be included therein in order to understand the mechanism and evolve a view on the possibility of its introduction in India,” the ministry said in its presentation.
Last week the Indian Gaming Federation (AIGF) released a White Paper to the Law Commission of India (LCI) detailing national provisions for creating an Indian regulatory framework for sports betting.
The White Paper pushes for a singular centralised framework for monitoring both land based and online betting with the creation of a National Gaming Council.
While opponents claim that betting could corrupt Indian sport or be detrimental to society, sports integrity body ESSA recently published a report in response to the Law Commission of India Gambling Consultation.
ESSA said: “It is clear that, whilst currently illegal in much of India, betting on sport, and particularly the national game of cricket, is widespread and yet largely unregulated and untaxed.
“This has led to a situation that has unfortunately benefited criminal elements (illegal betting, money laundering, match-fixing etc.) and has been to the detriment of sport, related investment such as advertising and sponsorship income, public revenues and the wider society in general.
“On the basis that prohibition of betting has proved ineffective, and where a renewed drive to impose it would appear impractical, a continuation of the status quo is clearly not advantageous.”
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