New Delhi: It is a sign of changing times. The Law Commission on Thursday recommended that gambling and betting on sports, including cricket, be allowed as regulated and taxable activities, which can, in turn, be even a source for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).
If the proposal goes through, it could lead to a windfall for the government. According to one estimate, the illegal betting market in India is worth $150 billion, or roughly Rs 9.6 lakh crore. Most of it is via local bookmakers and unregulated offshore websites. The commission took the opinion of students, experts and public in general before coming to the “logical” conclusion that regulation was needed more than prohibition.
While mulling over the issue, the commission even delved into the epic Mahabharata for answers. “Had gambling been a regulated activity, Yudhishtir would not have used his brothers and wife as stakes; and, perhaps, then Mahabharata would not have been there. The argument is full of substance,” noted the commission.
At present, betting is legal only on horse racing, and it is taxed at 28 per cent under GST. The commission recommended that like the exemption given to horse-racing, which is deemed as a game of skill, other ‘skill-centric’ games may also be exempted from the blanket ban on gambling”.The commission has also recommended amending the laws regulating forex and FDI to allow investments in the casino and online gaming industry. It has also laid down several checks and balances to avoid misuse, if betting is indeed legalised.
It has stated in its report that such activities should be offered only by operators from India possessing valid licences granted by a game licensing authority.For those who would participate in gambling and betting, there should be a cap on the number of transactions that they can indulge in monthly/yearly etc.It has also proposed that all betting and gambling activities should be linked to the operator’s and participant or player’s Aadhaar Card/PAN Card, to ensure “enhanced transparency and state supervision”.To top it all, transactions need to be cashless, “with penal provisions for cash transactions”, it said.
The commission is convinced that a complete ban has proved “counter-productive” and only helped in “black money generation and circulation”. In addition to revenue generation, a legal and regulated gambling sector will also help in creating large-scale employment opportunities.