Betting in India: Time To Legalise It In the Interest of Society?

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Gambling is a contentious matter in India, as it is in many other countries around the world. For the most part, it is illegal and there are many states that will not allow any form of gambling to take place online or offline. However, there are a number of exceptions, loopholes and differing interpretations of the law that mean gambling can—and does—take place without fear of repercussions.

The gambling sector in India is also changing significantly as state governments begin to understand the potential profits that can be made from legalising this sector. But this rapid acceptance and gradual legalisation has also been causing for concern for many community leaders, ultimately begging the question, “Is gambling a good thing for India or a bad thing?”

The only way to answer that question is to look at the potential pros and cons and analyse the ways that legalisation has impacted other countries.

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Pros of Legalising Gambling

In 2009 there was a gambling gold rush as Europe’s biggest brands saw the potential in the growing Indian gambling market and fought to earn their share. At the time it was estimated that the Indian gambling market was worth in excess of $60 billion, more than half of which was gambled illegally.

In the years since, the number has grown considerably, but those big name European brands still haven’t earned their share.

The real issue here is not the lack of foreign involvement, but the fact that so much money is gambled illegally. Every time a bet is placed illegally it takes money out of the country and the economy and it places the gambler at risk. Their safety is impacted, their finances take a hit, they run the risk of developing gambling addiction and financial issues, and as the economy is not benefiting, there is no silver lining.

If gambling were to be legalised across all Indian states as opposed to the few that allow it now, then players would not be forced to risk their earnings elsewhere. They would bet within the country, which means their money would help to boost the economy. What’s more, their winnings could also be taxed, ensuring more profit from the state.

The simple act of selling licenses could also prove to be very profitable. These licenses typically sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars and occasionally for tens of millions. In the US, for instance, a company can pay up to $70 million just to acquire a license that will let them operate legally.

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The gambling industry also generates a huge number of jobs, which in turn ensure more money stays in the country. It also increases tourism and many cities and countries have become tourist havens purely because of their casinos and relaxed gambling laws.

Needless to say, there are a wealth of benefits for legalising casino gambling and online betting in India, but such a move will not be without its issues. 

Cons of Legalising Gambling

People will always find a way to gamble—even in countries where gambling is tightly restricted you will find people with gambling addictions and families that have suffered as a result of these addictions. However, there is no doubt that a regulated gambling market increases the rate of these addictions and the damage that they do.

It’s no coincidence that Australia has some of the most relaxed gambling laws in the world and all have some of the highest rates of gambling addiction and there is no doubt that legalisation in India will see an influx of people needing treatment for addiction.

However, the money generated through taxation, licensing and job creation is usually more than enough to offset the societal costs of problem gambling and India could also follow in the footsteps of some countries that have taken an alternative stance on this issue.

In Finland, for instance, the gambling industry is owned by the state and they use the profits to fund problem gambling organisations and other charitable organisations. They fix the issues they create, but they do so much more than that and as a result, the Finnish model is now being copied by countries all over the world.

There is also the issue that many millions of Indians don’t believe gambling should be legal and will not vote or support a government that believes otherwise. However, as the figures quoted earlier suggest, these citizens are in the minority. Many more Indians already gamble, whether through skill based games like fantasy sports or via oversea’s casinos and sportsbooks.

The Future of Gambling in India

It’s hard to predict what will happen in the future, but whatever happens, we’ll almost certainly see some major changes in the offline and online gambling sectors in this country. Many states could look to the success that Goa has had with legal chance-based gambling as well as the success that fantasy sports firms have had with skill-based gambling. 

If they do, they may decide that relaxing the regulations on gambling is at the very least something that could support the economy in the short term and at the most something that could help to shape the future of this country.

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