Legalizing Betting is Not the Solution

The decibels erupted when it was proposed that betting in sports in India could be legalized. As a corollary, all eyes shifted quickly to the recent fiasco involving subject of spot fixing in Twenty20 fixtures such as the Indian Premier League and ball tampering that blew up in the face of the sport in March. However, the consensus remains largely against legalizing criminal activities in sports.

Although it is the norm in the United Kingdom where betting companies abound as do sports fraternities, there is a peculiarity in the Indian sub-continent that makes this a particularly dangerous proposition even to consider. Given the scale and propensity of the vulnerability of players, particularly in a team context and a sport with a mass following such as cricket, legalizing betting is simply not a practical solution simply because it will not stem the rot and if anything, only further perpetuate the malice, now in an official avatar.

The few, rare but impactful instances of players indulging in nefarious activities have already put a black mark on the sport, when every player is subjected to scrutiny when a team underperforms and his integrity as well as that of the team and sport are repeatedly brought into question. This needless vilification does little for the sport.

Much has been stated about how bringing betting, which is essentially gambling and a deviant nature of addictive human behavior, would now make every money spent wagering on the game accountable, even if one leaves asides the argument on moralistic ground, the premise fails simply because of the fact that now a third party is involved in the context of money laundering, namely, the government through its agency of taxation which is dubious enough in terms of the appropriation of the revenue accruing through tax channels.

Furthermore, simply by legalizing betting, in a country as geographically large and demographically extreme in terms of age, it will not stop the petty wagering in the back alleys nor will it stop the punters from socializing with social deviants who are back channels for hawala operations and dangerous conduits for then diverting these funds for purposes of terrorist activities and national security threats as has been proved in the past.

If anything, legalizing betting only now makes the players more vulnerable, exposed, and with the influence of the money being wages before the game is decided for then influencers such as betting rings disguised as sports organizations to then reallocate how the public money is spent. It turns a national obsession and a matter of pride for the cricketers into a sanctioned gambling den, taking both, fun and integrity out of the picture almost entirely.

With the Supreme Court in India still haggling with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (ICC) in checking malpractices in cricket administration, it would seem that it would only compound matters further given that cricket in the country functions as a separate entity from the rest of the sport that comes under government authority and there have been relatively simpler matters such as bringing the sport under a single drug criteria under WADA which have remained a consternation and point of headlock amongst the various sports agencies.

The idea of regulating the malfeasance in the sport and trailing money flow by legalizing what is deviant behavior if not criminal activity is a myth, particularly when the country has deeply embedded issues of sports and particularly cricket having an unholy alliance between politicians, money launderers and betting agents. Having a registry of official betting agents is implausible given the vast scope and gambit that would need to be covered. Furthermore, it then opens the door for those clamouring to make every anomaly within the sport to then be legalized to check it. It is a dangerous precedent that would complete change the way the sport will then be viewed.

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