The Indian government has taken a series of measures to curb the proliferation of illegal cricket betting apps and websites in the country. These platforms have been accused of engaging in money laundering, fraud, and violating the norms of online gaming. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has blocked over 200 such apps and websites in the past year, including the popular Mahadev app, which was allegedly involved in a massive money laundering syndicate.
What are cricket betting apps and why are they popular?
Cricket betting apps are online platforms that allow users to place bets on various aspects of cricket matches, such as the outcome, the score, the players, and so on. These apps offer attractive features such as cash bonuses, fast withdrawals, user-friendly interfaces, and live streaming of matches. Cricket betting apps are especially popular among millennials, who are avid fans of the game and have access to smartphones and affordable data. According to industry estimates, the Indian betting market is worth over INR 2 lakh crore and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 35% in the coming years. Cricket betting accounts for over 60% of all bets placed online.
What are the legal issues with cricket betting apps in India?
The legal status of cricket betting apps in India is unclear and ambiguous. While gambling is regulated by each state, only horse racing, lotteries, and casinos are legally permitted at the national level. The 1867 Public Gambling Act prohibits operating or visiting gaming houses, but it does not cover online gambling. Therefore, some offshore platforms that accept Indian currency and cater to Indian punters claim to operate legally. However, these platforms may still face liability under central and state gambling laws, as well as other laws related to money laundering, tax evasion, fraud, and cybercrime. Moreover, some states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have taken a stricter stance towards online gambling and have banned all forms of it, including cricket betting apps.
Which cricket betting apps have been banned and why?
The government has banned several cricket betting apps and websites that have been found to violate the regulatory norms and engage in illegal activities. Some of the banned apps and websites are:
- Mahadev: This app was allegedly running a franchise-type model in which it outsourced its operations to other platforms and shared profits in a 70-30% ratio. The app was also accused of laundering money through hawala, crypto, and other illegal routes. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted raids and seized assets worth Rs 417 crore from the app’s promoters and associates.
- Parimatch: This app was allegedly involved in fraud and scamming users by not honouring bets, deducting account balances without explanation, and coercing users to refrain from withdrawing funds. The app also required users to submit confidential information such as bank statements during registration, but did not encrypt the data, making it vulnerable to theft and hacking.
- Fairplay: This app was allegedly disguising itself as a fantasy sports platform without proper licensing and offering betting services on cricket and other sports. The app also hoarded user behaviour data and leaked it to third parties without consent.
- 1XBET, Lotus365, Dafabet, and Betwaysatta: These apps were allegedly violating the Information Technology Rules of 2021, which prohibit any game that involves betting or wagering on outcomes in India. These apps were also suspected of evading taxes and facilitating money laundering.
What does the future hold for cricket betting in India?
Cricket betting in India is a lucrative but risky business, as it operates in a legal grey area and faces constant scrutiny from the authorities. Users of cricket betting apps must exercise caution and responsibility, and avoid platforms that have opaque practices and dubious reputations. The government must also take steps to regulate the online gaming industry in a transparent and consistent manner, and ensure consumer welfare and national security. Ultimately, cricket betting in India must balance the interests of entertainment and financial rewards with the risks of addiction and crime.