Former Delhi top cop resists idea of legalising sports betting

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Former Police Commissioner of Delhi Neeraj Kumar in his recently released book ‘A Cop in Cricket’ talks about his three-year stint as head of BCCI’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).

The former IPS officer in this recently released book, which is the third bestseller penned by him, talks about the challenges faced by him in his role at BCCI’s ACSU, lack of support by the cricketing board for rooting out corruption at all levels of the sport and the deep malaise of fraudulent and nefarious activities faced by cricket in India.

In the book, Kumar talks about how several cricket leagues have mushroomed in all parts of the country, where dubious franchisee owners, organisers, cricketers and staff connive to conduct sham leagues whose only purpose is to facilitate betting and the results are pre-determined and fixed to ensure that bookmakers make a huge profit.

The book also exposes other rackets that are being carried out in the name of selection of players for the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well as state-level teams for various tournaments. According to the former head of ACSU, several individuals cheat and lure people by fraudulently misrepresenting their association with IPL franchisees or state selection committees and asking for bribes or fees for facilitating their selection and training in such teams.

Although corruption and fraud pervades cricket in India at various levels, Kumar’s account does not indicate any evidence that outcomes of any international or IPL-level matches are fixed at a large scale, the possibility of ‘spot-fixing’, i.e. individual players performing badly in exchange of monetary reward has not been ruled out.

At the end, Kumar talks about recommendations of the Supreme Court appointed Mudgal and Lodha committees, both of which recommended several reforms in the BCCI and cricket administration in India.

Crucially, although both committees recommended legalising and regulating sports betting as a means of ensuring that betting patterns can be monitored transparently and fixing in matches can be effectively investigated through tracing of irregular bets and betting patterns, Kumar disagrees with this point of you.

While disagreeing with the Lodha and Mudgal committees on legalising betting, Kumar notes as follows:

“I have always had reservations about this point of view (legalising betting). First, no political party in power would risk legalizing betting in sports. It would be widely perceived as giving legal sanction to gambling, which is otherwise a criminal offence…More importantly, even if the government legalizes betting, how many bettors would come forward to place their wagers using ‘white money’?…

The high rollers or punters who bet with their ‘petis’ (a colloquial term for lakhs) and ‘khokhas’ (crores) would continue with their big-stake gambling in the black market. It is these punters and their bookmakers who engineer match-fixing or attempt to compromise players to underperform for a fee. They would carry on with their business as usual even if betting is legalized. Therefore, it is my considered opinion that legalizing betting in sports will make no dent in corruption in cricket.”

Kumar also urges the government to seriously consider enacting a law for protecting sports integrity and preventing fraud and cheating in sport. He rues the fact that there is no specific law at present to penalise match-fixing or any attempt to alter outcomes of a game and that a draft law to prevent sporting fraud has been pending since 2013.

Readers can buy a paperback copy of Neeraj Kumar’s latest book ‘A Cop in Cricket’ here.

The Kindle version can be bought here.