India has one of the largest underground sports betting markets in the world and the sport generating the most illegal wagering is cricket, which is considered the “second biggest religion” in India by some.
While there are a number of sports played within the land of 1.2 billion, the game of cricket is what evokes the greatest interest and the highest number of illegal bets. Bookies operate an underground network and have been accused of fixing a number of cricket matches both domestically and internationally.
Sikkim, India has decided that it is time for sports betting to be made legal within the state and the Sikkim Legislative Assembly approved the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2015 in August. The new bill will allow gambling establishments to offer sports betting opportunities only within the state of Sikkim. The state has allotted three licenses to gambling establishments who are already in the process of advertising and promoting sports betting in Indian state.
Sikkim is one of the smaller and lesser known states in India but is one of the few places to allow live casinos to operate. The casinos were launched back in 2009 and were responsible for generating a surge in tourism which went up from around 5,000 tourists to 12,000 tourists per year. The state believes that the legalization of sports betting within Sikkim will encourage Indians from other states to visit Sikkim on a frequent basis, especially during the cricket season.
In a statement, Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Ugen T. Gyatso said “It is a big move for us. When horse racing is legal in our country, we can think of legalising betting in other forms of sports too. Also, we are hoping that we will be able to attract domestic tourists with this initiative.”
K.P. Sharma who is the Directorate for Sikkim State Lotteries stated that initially Sikkim wanted to be the base for sports betting websites to launch operations all across India but the Home Secretary was not willing to allow sports betting services to be offered throughout India. Hence, for now Sikkim has to be willing to restrict sports betting to only within the state but are confident that as the market grows and generates revenue there will be potential opportunities to expand further.
Political and religious parties in India have always opposed the gambling industry labelling it as an evil to society but recent developments suggest that things are looking better for gambling enthusiasts within India.