Law Commission of India Chairman Justice B S Chauhan today said there is a need to examine the impact of legalising sports betting by studying its social, economic and moral implications under a liberalised regime.
He said the myths and negative opinions on these issues have to be unfolded.
"Individual freedom was the basic right which we all look up to but the vulnerable sections of the society need protection at the same time," Justice Chauhan said in his address at the first India Gaming Conclave (IGC) organised by FICCI jointly with All India Gaming Federation (AIGF).
"While those in favour of legalising betting believe in the need to protect individual autonomy and minimum state interference, those disfavouring it believe that preserving societal order and morality was also important.
"Therefore, there was a need for reforms that aim at flexibility while ensuring freedom of choice for the consumers. Hence, there was a need to strike a balance between freedom and choice," a FICCI statement quoting Justice Chauhan said.
In his address, Justice Chauhan also said that any attempt at legalising gambling and betting has to be made in the backdrop of this socio-economic reality.
"There was a grave risk that legalising this activity might adversely affect the social fabric of India. There were chances that people in a bid to earn quick money through gambling might resort to unlawful means.
"A comprehensive analysis of the socio-economic circumstances in light of the constitutional guidelines was thereby essential before framing an umbrella legislation that legalises gambling," he said.
The Law Commission chairman said there were several adverse effects of gambling and one of the problems with it was when a person becomes addicted and loses control over his gambling activities, it results in financial losses that have an adverse impact on his or her personal, economic and social life.
"The second problem relates to the social repercussions that are a direct consequence of gambling. One fallout could be increased crime, loan sharking (taking loans at exorbitant rates for gambling), worsening of the living standards of the poor and lower middle class and changes in behavioural norms and social ethics," he said.
Justice Chauhan said it must be kept in mind that these
adverse effects arise not from gambling per se, but are a result of excessive gambling which results in addiction.
He said the response of the state in such a situation should be to regulate the activity, not seek to stop it completely.
"Legalisation would give the government an opportunity to bring gambling out from the dark corners of the society, impose some controls and extract some revenue. Perhaps as importantly, if betting was legal then a huge chunk of money that, at the moment circulates only round the black market, would quickly become available," he said.
Speaking at the programme, AIGF CEO Roland Landers said, "IGC is our effort to bring industry together and provide it with a platform where the stakeholders can make their voices heard".
He said that IGC would now be an annual event for the stakeholders to converge and discuss on working towards a legalized and regulated gaming industry in India.
FICCI Director Rahul Chakravarty, said that sport and gaming were one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy with a lot of money flowing in the sector.
"Gambling regulation was not new to India with lotteries already being regulated business under state control. FICCI launched the debate on regulating online sports betting and lottery in India in 2012.
"This regulation was not just to restrict the illegal activities but could create a scope of revenue for the government to invest in social sectors apart from sports," he said.