Mohd Rameez Raza and Raj Shekhar, law students from Integral University India and National Law University Ranchi respectively, discuss the Indian Premier League and Dream11 with the legal betting scenario in India....
The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been overburdened with scandals in recent years. In the UAE, the den of cricket gambling, the IPL’s conduct along with the sponsorship of Dream11 has been celebrated with joy not only by fans and players but also by the shadowy illegal betting world. Another controversial development has been the recent decision by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to remove anti-corruption officers attached to each team in the latest edition. This removal of anti-corruption officers is an utter disregard for the Supreme Court’s decision on the Lodha Committee Recommendations, which specifically directed for attaching integrity officers with each IPL team. It also betrays the mind-set of the board officials about their seriousness to tackle corruption in one of the most expensive sports leagues in the world.
The justification given for such contraventions is the presence of the ‘bio-bubble’ owing to the COVID-19 crisis, but the major question still remains – ‘Is it enough?’ and sadly the answer is – No. Thus, what needs to be analyzed is the potential threat such location and partnership with the betting company Dream11, which is already in the news for scandals related to fake matches, poses to the overall credibility and long-running moral robustness of Indian Cricket Pulse – The Indian Premier League. This article tries to analyze the potential threats to IPL 2020’s credibility through an analytical approach to legal provisions, official statements, reports, and cricketers’ own views.
It is not the first time that BCCI’s motive is in question. Previously, CBI’S Report on Cricket Match Fixing and Related Malpractices took an equally dim view of the BCCI’s response to match-fixing. Though there exists no concrete evidence that points towards the direct involvement of any of the members of the BCCI in match-fixing, the resolute indifference that has been witnessed time and again does give rise to a suspicion that there was perhaps more than that meets the eye and reading between the lines is the need of the hour. On the same note, it is very hard to believe and defies credulity that the apex body for cricket regulation in India was oblivious to such rampant match-fixing and had no strongly grounded belief to investigate thoroughly the results of matches which are prima facie questionable.
With all these stains already on its credibility, BCCI’s association with Dream11 for IPL 2020 and the fact that it is being held in the UAE, the flames of criticism are flaring yet again. Even if we go by the words of Former ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACSU) Advisor, instances and probability of betting and match-fixing are likely to be higher in IPL 2020. So the question is bound to arise why the BCCI teamed up with a company like Dream11 which is under investigation for links to a fake T20 league? There have been instances where Dream11 has partnered with the International Hockey Federation (FIH), Hero Indian Super League (ISL), International Cricket Council (ICC), BCCI, Pro Kabaddi League, and the US’ National Basketball Association (NBA), among many other sporting organizations, but does that necessarily mean that it’s safe to progress? The inferences are realizable but difficult in their rationality.
Another plaguing issue is the stark disregard for the Supreme Court’s decision on the Lodha Committee recommendations. The committee has very strongly pressed forth for the appointment of integrity officers with each IPL team, but the BCCI has ruled it out by putting forth the fact that the same can be served by the ‘Bio-Bubble’. Such a decision not only puts them under question but also betrays the mindset of board officials about their seriousness in tackling corruption in one of the most expensive sports leagues in the world. The defense of bio-bubble is that owing to the pandemic situation the players will remain isolated because of the bio-bubble and hence it will be hard for bookies and fixers to contact them. But then we are forced to consider that with the kind of communication technologies that exist today, fixers don’t need to be physically present near the players to achieve what they want. This disturbing realization, coupled with the fact that the IPL is shifting its base to Dubai, home of the kingpins of the fixed mafia, calls for only more stringent policing rather than toning down on them.
We cannot deny that the world is changing and the modus operandi of the betters and fixers as well. But then we are faced with the question as to if the time is right to reconsider India’s legal stance on gambling and betting on sports? The Indian Contract Act, 1872 and Public Gambling Act, 1867 prohibit wagering and gambling in public spaces, respectively. But these laws are more than 150 years old, and couldn’t have foreseen the technological advancements made. Because of this, there are no laws that regulate or prohibit or explicitly state the validity of online betting in India. The fact is that online betting is a booming business with transaction values in thousands of crores. It is only fitting to look towards its legitimate inclusion in the mainstream.
If we look at the main reason for the rise in match-fixing, it is not solely because of betting activities, but rather the absence of legitimacy to betting which makes people resort to mafia controlled betting. Betting is one way humans tend to seek easy profit. So, if betting is legitimized will it put an end to mafia involvement? Well, surprisingly the chances are very even. With legitimization will come an alternative which will be completely legal and can theoretically restrain the mafia’s growing influence. In the same line of reasoning, we have seen states like Sikkim which introduced the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 that now allows legal online sports betting.
Thus, the present situation is extremely important to consider because, on one hand, we have to save the legitimacy of the biggest sports league of India, while on the other hand, we have to find ways of inclusion to arrive at a conclusive and sustainable solution. Will this mean that we should legalize betting? Well for that we may have to wait and reconsider the potential and drawbacks it could lead to, however, presently our major concern should be restricted to preserving the legitimacy and credibility of IPL 2020, which is already under public scrutiny, owing to legitimate concerns. Any lapse at this stage could mean years of trust shattering and the religion of cricket in India facing a major setback. The takeaways from the tournament could indeed be used as a foundation for future legislation in this regard. What’s in store for the future is indeed cloudy but what’s certain is that Indian Laws need to be revisited for we see them today as failing the test of time.
Mohd Rameez Raza is a law student at the Integral University, India. Raj Shekhar is a law student at National Law University, Ranchi.
Suggested citation: Mohd Rameez Raza and Raj Shekhar, Dream11 and IPL 2020: Illegal Gambling and Indian Sports, JURIST – Student Commentary, September 01, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/09/raza-shekhar-ipl-bookmaker/.
This article was prepared for publication by Vishwajeet Deshmukh, a JURIST staff editor. Please direct any questions or comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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