Tasked by the Supreme Court to examine whether betting should be legalised in the backdrop of the infamous 2013 IPL betting scandal that rocked the careers of many cricketers, Law Commission chairman Justice B S Chauhan has said that preliminary scrutiny favoured regulating these activities through a law rather than a complete ban.
Justice Chauhan said gambling and betting had several adverse effects and people might get addicted to it, resulting in more crime and worsening living standards of the poor, but added that it did not justify a ban.“It must be kept in mind that these adverse effects arise not from gambling per se, but are a result of excessive gambling which re sults in addiction. Harm resulting from excess is not limited to gambling alone, as an excess of anything may negate its benefits,“ he said at a seminar organised by FICCI and All India Gaming Federation(AIGF).
“The response of the state in such a situation should be to regulate the activity , not seek to stop it completely. Legalisation would give the government the opportunity to bring gambling out from the dark corners of society , impose controls and extract some revenue…if betting were legal then a huge chunk of money that, at the moment circulates only round the black market, would quickly become available,“ he said.
“… regulation of this activity would enable the government to distinguish between harmless betting and corrupt activities like match-fixing. The total betting market is USD 60 billion per annum, which, if taxed, could raise USD 2.6 billion revenue. The government could start with India’s most popular sport i.e. cricket,“ he said.
The chairman, however, said a proper study should be conducted on the social, economic and moral implications of legalising betting and gambling. “There are chances that people, in a bid to earn quick money through gambling, might resort to unlawful means. A comprehensive analysis of the socio-economic circumstances in the light of the constitutional guideli nes is thereby essential.“
His comments assumed significance as the Law Commission is examining whether betting in sports could be legalised as suggested by Justice R M Lodha committee. The former SC judge said a legislation would bring all illegal transactions in the national mainstream and create job opportunities.
“…it is the need of the time to project the income and employment capabilities and future forecasts of this industry in India. It is further proposed that the development of a gambling industry in India requires a three-pronged strategy: reforming existing gambling (lottery , horse racing) market and legalising the present illegal market (introducing new products), while introducing stringent and over-arching regulations,“ he said.