A senior MP in India has been sentenced to two years of rigorous imprisonment by a court in Gujarat’s Panchmahals district, according to a report by the Hindustan Times.
Kesarsinh Solanki, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member representing the Matar constituency, won his seat in a 2014 by-election before retaining his seat in the 2017 assembly elections. He was one of 25 people arrested while partaking in illegal gambling activities at a Shivrajpur Village resort in the Panchmahals district.
The accused will also have to pay a ₹3,000 fine alongside the heavy prison sentences, while ₹3.9 lakh, eight vehicles, 25 mobile phones, and a laptop were also seized as part of the operation under sections 4 and 5 of the Public Gambling Act. Those within the gambling sector believe the case and subsequent sentencing is yet more evidence of gambling prohibition failing in India, wasting practical crime-fighting resources, and unnecessarily busying prisons as a result.
Why Case Proves Legalization Is A Must
The entire incident was a living embodiment of what the pro-legalization lobby for gambling in India argues against. Instead of legalizing gambling in India and imposing taxation on regulated gambling houses (which in turn brings a boost to employment opportunities), the government continues to waste police resources on expensive and time-consuming sting operations.
Keeping people out of prison and increasing state revenue should be among the two main priorities of any national government, and one can’t help but think that the government is missing a massive trick by refusing to implement a statewide authority to oversee safe gambling operations across the country.
What Steps To Regulation Can Government Take?
Recent developments hint at a softening in the stance toward online gambling at a local and national level across the country.
In Meghalaya, Law and Taxation Minister James P.K. Sangma suggested brick and mortar gambling and online betting was to be legalized for state tourists to help raise money for the local government.
However, there is still a long way to go in a typically conservative country that remains resistant to sorely-needed change.
Hundreds of thousands of bettors follow up on cricket betting tips from discussions with their friends to punt with dangerous and unlicensed operators. Indeed, a study by leading industry experts ENV Media, titled Sports Betting: India’s Invisible Giant, explains just how popular underground sports betting is in India. :
“When India’s national cricket team plays a One-Day International match (ODI), illegal betting amounts to around USD 200 million per game. The combined amount over the year, including the League season and any international competitions, reaches USD 150 billion (~Rs 10 lakh crore in 2016 exchange rates), according to the International Centre for Sports Security, a think tank and lobby group based in Doha. This amount is quoted in more recent industry (legal) reports as USD 130 billion.”
The study also outlined why it could be in the government’s electoral interest to make a change.
“Projecting upcoming trends for sports betting is one thing in mature markets, a completely different task in India. The question of brick-and-mortar betting ever becoming legal (beyond horse racing) is more political than it is economic or social.. When and if the Central Government of India realizes that there are consistent voter bases that would readily support sports betting and online gaming regulations, we might expect changes in the legal scene, probably rather swift ones as well. As things stand, catering for the conservative share of the population requires a careful approach and no outward liberalization of the betting market.”
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