Everybody knows India loves cricket and estimates on the size of the cricket betting market show that India loves that as well. At the same time back-alley bookies are again and again getting detained for organizing betting schemes, while safer online options are rising in visibility.
Four of Every Five Rupees Betted on Sports in India are for Cricket
Estimates attribute four fifths or 80 percent of all betting on sports that happens in India to betting on cricket, as is pointed out in a recent study by RMG market analysts ENV Media titled “Sports Betting, India’s Favorite Invisible Giant”.
The study quotes different evaluations on the size of the Indian sports betting market, with the lowest of them being the impressive ₹3 lakh crore (roughly $41 billion) annually. This figure is provided by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) together with the estimate that the fisc is losing ₹19,000 crore of tax revenues every year just because sports betting has not been legalized in the country.
The report by the Justice Lodha Committee, which was formed with the aim to evaluate the desi sports betting market and come up with reasonable measures to place it under control, gives a twice as high figure, estimating the sector at ₹6 lakh crore ($82 billion) per year.
The highest estimates are provided by the Doha-based think tank and lobby group called the International Centre for Sports Security. According to them, the size of just the cricket-related (IPL season plus international competitions combined) sports betting market is ₹10 lakh crore ($150 billion in the ICSS study), with $200 million changing hands over the course of a single One-Day International match (ODI) of the Indian national team.
Illegal Bookies and Hawala Schemes
Even though a number of offshore-based sites offer live cricket satta rates and IPL betting to Indians and using them is not illegal in most states and UTs, the largest part of the between ₹3 and ₹10 lakh crore being betted on cricket in the country every year changes hands in black market operations. Thus, the sector is still dominated by illegal bookies, back-alley deals, hawala money transfers, and encrypted chat groups.
Instead of taxes being collected from this vast market, large public resources are getting spent by law enforcement authorities on efforts to keep the illegal transactions in check, with an unending series of police raids and arrests of illegal bookies for running online or offline booking rings.
During the November 11 T20 World Cup match, Task Force and Golconda police officers busted a scheme for online cricket betting. The racket was allegedly run by three people, but only one of them was arrested and the other two went into hiding. According to police sources, the trio operated cricket betting in Hyderabad and other cities through an online application on a commission basis.
On November 29, cybercrime police and Hanumakonda police station units raided a suspect’s house and detained two people who were allegedly organizing an online cricket betting scheme. Seven mobile phones, 43 passbooks of different banking institutions, a big number of ATM cards, and cash to the amount of 2.5 crore were seized.
One of the detainees had been held by the Ramachandrapuram police in 2019 for organizing betting on cricket that had started in 2016. After serving time in jail, he had moved to Hanumakonda and renewed his illegal activities with the help of the second detainee.
The International Online Betting Alternative
All of this shows that cricket and betting on cricket are extremely popular in the country, and indeed “India has a true “love affair” with cricket, unparalleled in any other context,” as the ENV Media researchers word it. Pure Win Sports and other offshore-based online betting platforms offer “an obvious solution for many desi punters, and an alternative to black-market operations run over chat groups, messaging channels, and back-alley bookies.”
Betting on such offshore platforms is rising in visibility and traction, on the one side driven by the risks related to illegal operations. On the other side, the trend is being helped to a great extent by the growing penetration of affordable smartphones, cheap and fast mobile data plans, and the rising disposable income getting available to large portions of the country’s populations. The lockdowns and the restrictions brought around by the Covid-19 pandemic also have been doing their part, adding fuel to the process.