India is losing around Rs 2 lakh crore annually because of illegal betting on cricket, according to a rough estimate made by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF). The AIGF is a not-for-profit entity and an apex body which focuses on policy advocacy, research and forum for discussion among various stakeholders associated with the gaming industry. The huge amount India loses by way of illegal cricket betting can “rather be collected as tax”.

According to the AIGF, around Rs 2,000 crore was wagered on the recently concluded Champion’s Trophy final between India and Pakistan. The amount was 10 times higher than any previous match held between the two countries. “It has been estimated and established by many studies on cricket betting that roughly around Rs 2 lakh crore is betted on all cricket matches that India plays throughout the year,” Rolland Landers, CEO of AIGF, told The Sunday Guardian.

A Delhi-based kingpin of bookmakers, said on the condition of anonymity, “For a number of Delhiites, cricket matches are a way to earn quick money as huge amounts are wagered by way of bets. Delhi alone is one of the biggest hubs of gambling on cricket in the country. Almost 5,000 individuals, from those ferrying money in cash to bookmakers, are deployed during the cricket season.”

Shivkumar Garg, a former senior official of the Special Cell of Delhi Police, who was involved in keeping tabs on illegal betting, said, “The country loses around Rs 2,000 crore during any cricket match held for over six days. Despite the alertness of the Special Cell, responsible for stopping betting on cricket, illegal betting is alive and keeps the bookmakers busy.”

“The majority of the betting in the country takes place illegally and its effects have been extremely damaging. Sophisticated criminal rackets have been run ever since gambling was made illegal in 1867. These networks have developed over the years and now incorporate cutting-edge technologies to run their betting systems. There is a constant battle between the police and bookmakers, with most people generally agreeing that the bookmakers have the edge,” Garg added.

Jay Bhardwaj, a senior Supreme Court lawyer who has been a member of several fact-finding committees constituted by the court to look into the issue of illegal betting, told The Sunday Guardian: “The result of illegal betting is that much police time and money is spent to track down criminals involved in illegal gambling. These racketeers do not pose any direct or imminent threat to the public and therefore many people believe that police resources could be better used elsewhere. Money made in illegal gambling often goes into the hands of more dangerous crooks who operate in areas like drugs and terrorism.”

“If gambling is legalised, that mountain of dirty money would stop going to the criminals and could be collected as tax. The government currently loses out lakhs of crores of rupees annually due to the illegal gambling black-market. That money can be spent cracking down on other forms of crimes that are more harmful to society,” Bhardwaj added.