Indian Government Cracks Down on Betfair, Other Illegal Gambling Sites, Betfair Closes India Betting Amid Controversy
The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) is calling upon the Indian government to crack down on illegal offshore gambling sites that target Indian residents.
In a letter sent by the AIGF to Prime Minister Modi, they accuse nine online gambling websites, including 1xbet, Bet365 among others of “luring and accepting bets from Indian citizens” without local authorization.
According to reports, The AIGF asked Modi to instruct the government’s Enforcement Directorate to crack down on payment processing services that facilitated financial transactions between Indian betters and the sites mentioned, as India’s central government has yet to authorize their activities.
Just after Christmas, Congress party MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor introduced new legislation that would create a national regulatory and licensing scheme for online sports betting while empowering authorities to crack down on operators lacking a local license and criminals who facilitate rigged contests and games.
One such site that has been affected by new legislation is international online betting house, Betfair. The news that the company would close betting to Indian gamblers was announced in late January. Though the site did make assurance that all pending bets would be honored through the site’s customer service page. Access to most of the site has now been restricted to users attempting to access the site from inside India.
An email from Betfair circulated in which the company urged users in that country to remove any remaining funds from the site by Jan 28. It read as follows:
“We’re sorry to inform you that we will stop taking bets on Betfair in India in the new year. We will be closing our website for all customers from India on 28th January 2019. All bets placed to that date will be left open. Sportsbook and matched Exchange bets will remain in place until results are determined and markets are settled. Please visit the website and manage any open positions and withdraw any funds in advance of the 28th January 2019. Matched bets after this date will be settled once results have been determined and winnings can be collected through Customer Service. If you are having any difficulties accessing your account or would like to withdraw winnings from settled bets after January 28th 2019, please contact our Customer Service Team to withdraw any outstanding funds. We understand this is frustrating and apologise for any inconvenience which is caused.”
Since Betfair closed betting in India, the site, when accessed from IP addresses originating inside Indian borders gives the following message on its homepage:
“Our Software detects that you may be accessing the Betfair website from a country that Betfair does not accept bets from. If you believe that this detection has occurred in error, please Contact us for further assistance.”
There has been speculation that the move on Betfair’s part, has perhaps been coerced by the Indian government in the wake of the 2019 General Elections.
Betfair has given no public explanation for its decision, though it comes amid a series of allegations that Betfair and other international gambling operations have conducted less than scrupulous business practices which may violate Indian law.
Gambling sector in India
With a population in excess of 1 billion people, India is a large market for gambling. One of the most popular pursuits in this sector is sports betting. The people of India are crazy about sports, particularly cricket and horse racing. They also enjoy casino games and poker.
Although these are popular pastimes, authorities heavily restrict gambling in the country. One reason for this is the massive popularity of illegal gambling platforms, particularly those from offshore countries. Massive amounts of revenue that could be going to the government are instead going into the pockets of criminals.
Many groups have recently been pushing for some of these restrictions to be eased. The state is still hesitant to expand the gambling laws in India because they don’t want corruption and crime to increase.
Problems with Illegal gambling
Gambling activities fall under legislative grey area in India.Although a good percentage of money is wagered legally on horse racing and lottery, a large amount is wagered on cricket and other sports via illegal and “technically illegal” channels.
The primary legislative document that makes gambling in India a shadowy realm of legality is the Public gambling act. This is an old law created during British rule. This 145 year old law makes operating a gambling house, assisting in the operation of a gambling house, visiting a gambling house (whether gambling or not), financing gambling and being in possession of gambling devices a crime.
There are certain exceptions under this law for lottery and skill games, including some card games, but the law code is rather dated, and leaves loopholes for other gambling activities that may be illegal and unethical.
Because of Indian restrictions regarding gambling, many people turn to illegal platforms, often those that are offshore.
At a time when nearly all other developed countries have legalized and regulated gambling, India has largely turned a blind eye on an enormous revenue generating opportunity, which may also lead to the curbing of prevalent match-fixing.
While this may come as disappointing news to some Indians, The good news is that sites like Dafabet and other betting sites continue to accept legal bets from Indian nationals, presumably operating within the letter of Indian laws.