Cricket is one of the most popular sport in India, with billions of fans and followers. But as its popularity grew overtime time, betting on the game also thrived. Initially betting was done through offline bookmakers at a local bar or over phone calls. But with the support of technology, online cricket betting is really taking off.
In 2013, the Delhi Police arrested three cricketers, Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan representing Rajasthan Royals, on the charges of spot-fixing in Indian Premier League 2013 edition. With several other arrests, Rajasthan Royals & Chennai Super Kings were banned from Indian Premier League for next 2 years.
But in July 2015, the Patiala House court discharged cricketer Sreesanth and 35 others who were accessed in IPL spot-fixing case. The additional sessions judge, Neena Krishna Bansal noted that cricket betting is not illegal and no action can be taken for betting on cricket matches.
“Cricket as a game of skill requires hand-eye-coordination for throwing, catching and hitting. It requires speed, both during fielding chases and between the stumps. It requires stamina and brute strength to wallop boundaries. It requires microscopic levels of precision and mental alertness for batsmen to find gaps or for bowlers to produce variety of styles of deliveries’ (medium pace, fast, inswing, outswing, offspin, legspin, googly). The sport requires strategic masterminds that can select the most efficient fielding positions for piling pressure on the batsmen. Based on above description, cricket cannot be described anything, but as a game of skill.
The game of cricket, therefore, cannot be held as a game of chance, but is a game of skill which is exempted under Section 12 of Public Gambling Act, from the definition of Gambling.
Therefore, even if it is accepted that there was rampant betting going on in the IPL6, but it is an activity excluded u/s 12 of Public Gambling Act, and is not an offense for which any of the accused can be held liable.” noted additional sessions judge Neena Krishna Bansal.
The above order was passed based on Section 12 of the 1867 Public Gambling Act that exempt games of skill from the scope of gambling. Delhi police has decided to file an appeal against this order, which is pending hearing on 11th August 2017.
The decision on legalizing betting falls within the legislature of the current government. In July 2016, the Supreme Court headed by then CJI T.S. Thakur while discussing the Lodha committee recommendations on legalizing sports betting, noted “recommendation of legalizing betting involves the enactment of a law that may be examined by the Law Commission and the Government for such action that it deems fit“.
There are several arguments that can be put together to convince Supreme Court to legalize betting on cricket. Betting on horse-race is legal in India. Also currently, cricket betting is in control of the underworld which supports money laundering, tax evasion and terror financing which can be curbed by legalizing betting. Also, the betting industry would also generate tax revenue for the government.
So will Supreme Court legalize cricket betting in India? we need to wait and watch…