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New-Age Betting vs Old-Age Laws

SOURCE : The Quint
12 APR 2019

With the Indian Premier League (IPL) fever surging in India, betting and gambling activities have also intensified.

While the days of “punter-raj” are far from over, bettors today don’t need to locate shady bars, or call their bookies all through the game to know the rates or change their bets. They can bet from the ease of their couches, or while sitting in their offices, as long as they have a smartphone and an internet connection, as well as some extra money they are willing to put at risk. And with the tech savvy generation, the betting options are abundant.

Modus Operandi

Taking advantage of this loophole, many off-shore websites are becoming a platform for betting and gambling in India. Indians can place bets on a number of betting websites with servers mostly in the UK or Europe, where gambling is legal.

Bet365, BetRally, Betway, Spin sports etc. are full of various sports categories on which people can gamble.

A lot of the off-shore websites offer a variety of bets, aside from just a win or loss bet. One can bet on the number of hits, sixes, etc. These websites are foreign and cater to multiple nations with a variety of options like football, basketball, cricket, and so on.

But when it comes to Indians, IPL season is the most active season. IPL betting is not limited to Indians. In the UK, where gambling is legal and the cricket frenzy is similar to India, professional IPL betting can make people really rich, according to a Cricbuzz report.

“Apart from cricket, we are also really active during FIFA season. Football is gaining a lot of popularity here,” says a user on condition of anonymity. With the concept of leagues, hockey and football also have national competitive leagues now, adding new avenues for bettors.

To help people make “wiser” betting choices, websites like sportsbetting.net give detailed descriptions of the various betting websites, ranking them on account of trust-ability, ease of access, etc.

Creative Platforms

While the websites offer an easy and organised way of “clean betting”, people have other options to bet (though illegally). WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption, which means any third party cannot monitor the conversations that take place on the app. Exploiting this valuable feature, many use WhatsApp groups to conduct live betting sessions with their gambling partners.

“WhatsApp can also be used to collect data among us, the encryption ensures there is no chance of getting caught,” says Ajit (name changed). “Mostly we bet for fun on our WhatsApp groups, but some groups have stakes and money involved,” he adds.

Mukesh (name changed), a fan of IPL and casual betting says, “I don’t bet for money. I bet in the groups just for fame, to get credits for my predictions. But my train friends [his co-passengers on the Mumbai local trains] are constantly betting on these European websites. Some of them use bookies, too.”

Telegram messaging app on the other hand has end to server encryption, i.e. the data gets stored to the server. But that doesn’t deter bettors from using this app for their gambling purposes.

“The person that we bet with, he took Rs 10,000 and gave us 1,000 points, each worth Rs 10. We book bets on his app. He said get your points converted at the end of the season. He charges 2 percent commission on every bet,” says Jignesh (name changed).

The bookie doesn’t bet and collects his bettors through Telegram groups. The users then take help of websites like Pace Line, to guess and assert the odds and decide their bets. While Jignesh didn’t name the app being used for actual bets in question, he claims, “it looks clean and legit, but there might be legal grey areas.”

Law vs Loopholes

The Indian Contract Act (1872) and Public Gambling Act (1867) prohibit wagering and gambling in public spaces, respectively. But these laws are more than 150 years old, and couldn’t have foreseen the technological advancements made. Because of this, there are no laws that regulate or prohibit, or explicitly state the validity of online betting in India.

“Gambling and betting laws have a lot of grey areas. Betting via bookies is illegal, or gambling in public spaces is a punishable offence, but there are no laws for online betting.”

Rajnandani Das, Advocate at Calcutta High Court

Furthermore, gambling regulations falls on the state, so if the website host is in another state or country, the case becomes difficult, she adds.

The off-shore websites exploit this loophole, as most of these web-servers are located in one country, while the website in another.

For example, Bet365 is registered in the United Kingdom, while its servers are in Gibraltar, both of which are outside the Indian legal system.

While the placing of bets on these websites are easy, transferring the money isn’t. Indian banking laws prohibit sports betting or gambling transactions, so one cannot directly transfer the money with their credit or debit cards.

But there is a way to circumvent this law as well. Websites like Bet365 have made sure Indian bettors are not left out by adding alternative payment methods to their system. People can use Neteller or Entropay as third-party wallets and pay or receive their winnings directly. Entropay has recently stopped accepting fresh sign ups though.

Law vs Bookies

With the advancement of technologies, the bookies have also evolved. They dodge the laws by using online platforms to curate their customers and set the rates. Regardless of the platforms, gambling and bookies are still illegal and can get one arrested.

Three bookies were recently arrested in Mangaluru on charges of running an online betting business, according to a Times of Indiareport. The police also recovered more than Rs 60,000 in cash and four mobile phones.

Rajnandani states that a lack of clear, explicit law is the reason behind all this ambiguity. While one is less likely to get arrested for betting on a platform like Betrally or Bet365, but using a bookie or any other online platform can land them in hot water.

To make things clear, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has written to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress, suggesting inclusion of the legalisation and regulation of online gaming and sports betting as one of the promises in their party manifestos.

“The online gaming industry can generate substantial revenues to the exchequer, create jobs, ensure responsible gaming and also curb and eliminate illegal activities like match fixing & money laundering if brought under formal regulation and taxed rationally,”

AIGF states in its press release.

While we can’t say when or if we will have a proper regulatory mechanism for online betting and gambling, we do know that betting aficionados are not running out of options any time soon.

Article credits : The Quint

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