A few days before the India-Australia series began earlier this month, bookies (bookmakers who accept bets on behalf of people on the outcome of sports contests) residing in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Jaipur moved to small towns such as Ratnagiri, Nashik, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Rajkot and Belgaum. They then purchased new SIM cards, bought new ledgers and opened new accounts in the names of their patrons.
Over the years, these actions have become customary before every important series. A gruelling cricket season lies ahead — the ongoing India-Australia series will be followed by the ninth season of Indian Premier League (IPL) in March. The shift to obscure places and the cat-and-mouse game are aimed at a singular purpose — escape the attention of law enforcement agencies. The big bookies even travel abroad, mostly to Dubai. Barring Sikkim, which recently legalised sports betting and gambling, sports betting is illegal in India. Bookies face the risk of seizure of equipment and cash, penalty and jail term varying from two months to three years.
The government can take some cues from countries that have legalised betting. Countries like the UK have adopted measures to control 'problem betting' and framed laws to support legalised betting and gambling. The UK has long managed a well-developed gambling industry with sports betting options and lotteries. Between April 2008 and September 2011, the gross gambling yield (excluding telephone betting) was £20.1 billion, according to a UK Gambling Commission report. "Regulation of betting is critical to preventing corruption in sports," says Nick Nocton, partner at London-based law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP. "Only through a robust regulatory regime can regulators and sports bodies hope to access key information regarding suspicious betting transactions."
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