India should consider legalising sports betting and introducing legislation to deal with match-fixing, Ajit Singh Shekhawat, the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit at the Board of Control for Cricket in India, has said.
Sports betting is currently illegal in India, but match-fixing is not a criminal offence. This year there were several high-profile arrests of people running illegal betting operations in the country during the Indian Premier League cricket tournament. There has also been a string of match-fixing cases in regional cricket leagues.
In an interview with the Press Trust of India this week, Shekhawat said: “Maybe there could be 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.
“Once it is legalised, you will also get the data on who is betting and how much is the betting. And while doing that, make illegal betting tougher. Right now you can get away with a fine of few hundreds or a few thousand.”
He added: “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 sports is mind-boggling.”
Creating new laws targeting match fixing would help police crack down on the problem, Shekhawat, a former director general of police in Rajasthan, said: “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.”
Last year, the Law Commission of India suggested making match-fixing a criminal offence like it is in England and Australia.
This February, there was alarm after an India national women’s team player reported an approach to fix a match to the BCCI, prompting an ICC inquiry. Match-fixing in India had previously been regarded as a problem confined to the men’s game.
Shekhawat said: “Anything which is given wide publicity, which is telecast live, it lends itself to betting and once something lends itself to betting then it could be anything. If they find out that it is getting tough to make headway in men’s cricket, they may try to go to women’s cricket.
“If that is also tough, they may try the state leagues and if that is also proving to be tough, they may they have their own league like it was in the case of Rajputana league,” he pointed out. The inaugural 2017 season of the regional Rajputana was cancelled after a betting scandal involving players and umpires.
Shekhawat took over the BCCI’s ACU last year. He has increased its staff to eight, and plans to add five or six more. He described some of the new measures the unit was taking: “This is the first time we have totally taken over the anti-corruption of the state-run (regional) leagues. It is also the first time our officials are staying at the team hotels to keep a watch on the players.
“We also organise anti-corruption classes for the participants. We tell them what anti-corruption code is, what the penalties are and what are the responsibilities cast upon each of the participants.
“Like when an approach is made, it is incumbent upon the participant to report it. If he doesn’t report it, it is an offence and he could be penalised. Due to anti-corruption classes, the players have started reporting approaches.”