While gambling remains illegal in India, there exists a huge appetite for it in the country. Mostly focused around sports, specifically cricket and the Indian Premier League, clandestine betting through bookies is still widespread in the country. It is estimated that close to Rs 3,00,000 crore changes hands every year through online chatrooms, bookies and international betting websites. Along with this, online gaming has also been rising exponentially, with revenue estimated to have been around Rs 4,380 crore in the 2018 financial year, according to KPMG.
This includes revenue from online fantasy gaming, which is not considered to be a form of gambling. There has been a lot of conversation around this topic recently, with there being calls to legalize online gambling to allow the government to earn tax revenue off it. It is estimated that legalizing sports betting could bring in revenues of up to Rs 19,000 crore per year for the government. Moreover, it will allow the threat of truly illegal activities such as match-fixing to be reduced. Technology can play a huge role here, especially in educating the public and curbing addiction.
David Foster, Head of Regulatory Affairs at GVC, has been quoted as saying that “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”, with regard to legalizing betting. GVC owns top online casino brands such as Ladbrokes, Bwin and Casino Club. There are a number of sportsmen, both past and present, who support the legalization of sports betting in India, with the revenue earned being used to improve sporting facilities throughout the country. One of these is former Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia, who has stated that “regularizing the industry will lead to revenue generation for the state, which should be further used in the development of the sports industry.”
With regard to betting being seen as a ‘social evil’, that is where technology can play a huge role. The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) is working on drawing up a regulatory framework to address the negative perception around sports betting, while there are also proposals to use technology to address these concerns. Some of these include implementing a unified set of responsible gaming policies, which will be enforced using technology through apps and websites through regular audits, age verification and spending limits, to address potential issues of addiction and underage gambling. The framework also seeks to maintain a centralised ledger of all online betting transactions in order to address these concerns. India has already seen examples of two states in Goa and Sikkim, where the gaming industry has created thousands of jobs. Using technology to ensure that addiction and underage gambling are dealt with is the first step towards creating a safe environment for online gambling, one which can generate revenue for the government while also allowing players to indulge in a pastime without having to consider the legality of the activity.