India Sports Ministry in Early Talks to Legalize Online Sports Betting

The legalization and regulation of online sports betting has been brought up for discussion by India’s Sports Ministry, The India Express reported citing a ministry official. According to the unnamed source, different government administrations have been approached with the proposal and informal consultations have been held.

The country is still in the earliest stages of development of an online sports betting legislative framework, but supporters of the idea have already pointed to the United Kingdom as a market to look up to.

The ministry official told local media that they believe the UK has crafted one of the most effective gambling frameworks and that they hope they will be able to understand it and deploy it in India.

It has also become known that the country’s Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas is currently in England to discuss the terms of and hopefully sign a Memorandum of Understanding. Online sports betting will be one of the important points in that memorandum, the unnamed source has told The Indian Express.

Sports betting is illegal in the South Asian country with population of 1.311 billion people (World Bank: 2015). Betting on horse racing has long been the only legel exception. That particular activity is taxed at 28% per year. There is still no information about what rate online sports betting services will be taxed at.

A report by India’s International Centre for Sports Security valued the country’s illegal sports betting market at $150 billion. It is believed that most of that money comes from local bookmakers and offshore betting sites.

If sports betting is legalized in the country, the tax proceeds coming from the activity will be used to fund sports and different other programs the Sports Ministry has been in charge of.

Although the regulation of sports betting and the introduction of a licensing regime seems to have gained many supporters in the Sports Ministry, opposition is also expected to arise. Match-fixing and keeping the integrity of sports have been used as arguments against the legalization of that type of service in other countries and it is believed that such arguments will be voiced in India, as well.

The idea about the country potentially regulating its online sports betting market began gaining momentum last year when the then Chief Justice R M Lodha wrote in a report to the Supreme Court that both sports and India’s overall economy would benefit from such a move. Mr. Lodha, too, pointed to the UK as a market to use as a base for the establishment of their own.

News about the possibility for India to legalize online sports betting came at a time when online poker is experiencing a boom in the South Asian country. More and more operators have been looking to expand into India, with PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker room, being among those.

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