Cricket betting goes online

It is illegal to gamble on cricket in India, but city bettors transact through apps and escape the eyes of the law

Bengaluru police recently arrested four men for cricket betting, and seized Rs 17.6 lakh in stake money.

But that’s not even a drop in the ocean when compared to the scale of betting in the city every time an international cricket match takes place anywhere, police say.

Alok Kumar, additional commissioner of police (Crime), has seen many full-time bettors in the city. “It is their profession and they do nothing other than this. We have information about certain groups and are keeping a watch over them,” he told Metrolife.

The legal problem for the police is to seize all the cash, and prove it was being used for betting. “We can’t say that the bet was Rs 70 lakh and recover only Rs 7,000 during the raid. The case becomes very weak,” he says.

Eleven years ago, before the advent of Net betting, bookies collected post-dated cheques.

“If you won then you could cash the cheque, and if you didn’t, you had to return it,” says Alok Kumar. It has become more difficult for the police to catch bettors now as most transactions take place online.

Alok Kumar calls for a relook at the betting laws. “Gambling is illegal here but some countries thrive on it. We have to look into the legal aspects of how to curb illegal apps,” he says.

Global reach

Another senior police officer says that it doesn’t matter where bettors live in the era of phone apps. “They can operate from any part of the globe. All they need is a laptop and a mobile phone,” he says. Bettors are usually between 20 and 40 years, and only moderately educated. 

“They are mostly pre-university or undergraduate dropouts and speak English and Hindi, and mostly hail from business families,” says the officer. The temptation to make quick money draws them to betting, he says. The betting network is mostly localised but is occasionally connected to states as well.

Why low conviction?

A senior police officer, who didn’t want to be named, says investigation is shoddy, which is why bettors and bookies get away. “We seize laptops and mobile phones but nobody tries to find out what information is contained in them,” he says. He does not rule out police collusion. “They get paid only when they start booking cases,” he says. Mobiles and laptops seized should be sent for forensic examination. None of this is usually done, he says.

Legally speaking...

S Guru Prasanna, advocate, talks about the legal hurdles involved in bringing bettors to book. “It is a multi-fold perspective. Many people I know bet through a site called www.bet365.com based in United Kingdom. From a jurisdictional perspective, bettors don’t fall under that criminal provision. Since a lot of betting is done online, the tracking and follow-up is not done properly,” he says. Betting becomes illegal depending on what you are betting on. “Rummy and poker are considered games of skill. Cricket betting is illegal under Indian law,” he says.

Why is the conviction rate so low?

The conviction rate in police cases is per se is low. It is lower in betting and gambling. Conviction is low in murder, rape and theft cases because the investigation is not watertight. Criminal cases require a high standard of evidence as the guilt has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Even if there is one per cent chance of innocence the accused is acquitted. Most betting happens in the black market. In a hundred cases, only one or two will be raided. Again here, if the quality of evidence is low, which it usually is, it is but natural that they result in acquittal.

Bettors keep low profile

Arvind (name changed) has made lakhs from cricket betting.

“I keep a schedule of all the matches that happen anywhere across the globe. Betting starts at Rs 500 for the premier matches and could go up to Rs 1 lakh. What’s important is how well networked you are and what comes to the fore is your gambling skills,” he told Metrolife.

The stakes are transferred either in hard cash or through online transfers.He says with online transactions now being in vogue, the police just can’t catch bettors.

“Suspicion could arise if cash changes hands just after the match but if you wait for a day or two and then transfer the amount, how can the cops prove that it is for betting?” he says. “And also, we operate carefully.”

Rupesh (name changed) claims he recently staked Rs 1,000 and made Rs 3 lakh. “I bet only with close friends who I can trust. It’s good money if you know the tricks,” he says.

What do they bet on?

It could be anything from how much a batsman will score to which team will win. Even minute aspects of the game, such as whether a batsman will get out to a particular ball, is used for gambling.

How they bet online

The bettors usually choose online sites like Bellplay and BET65. They start with small stake bets and gradually increase the amount only when they are fully confident that they have understood how that particular bet works.

They usually bet in groups of known people as trust is an important component in taking forward the bet. Betting goes on till the match is over. The winner gets to take home a fancy amount. Cash is not transacted immediately the bettor waits for a day or two to transfer the amount. This is done to weed out any suspicion.

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