Shane Warne on legalizing online skill-games in India

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Australian Cricketing legend Shane Warne is known for speaking his mind and he did just that when asked about legalizing online betting in India. The questions were asked in the light of the International Cricket Council’s Anti-Corruption Unit’s study that concluded the Indian subcontinent as a hub for illegal bookies and steps to curb the menace, suggested the government of India should legalize gambling.

Warne was blunt with his response “The government of India is clearly missing the trick here,” he says in his exclusive interview with the Times of India “They should have legalized gambling a long time back.”

Supporting his statement further Shane added that legalizing and regulating gambling is a long overdue reform. He also said that legal gambling would ensure that big bets are tracked and suspicious betting patterns can be investigated. Many countries have legalized betting and the move has certainly added to the revenues of their economy.

If someone wants to gamble, then it doesn’t matter whether you legalize it or not; they’ll still do it,” he says, So (they) might as well benefit from it.

Gambling isn’t completely illegal in India. Similar to the US, it is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Currently, 13 states have their own lottery, while just two – Goa and Sikkim – have started to allow some forms of gaming. However, plenty remain in the grey area and are open to legal interpretation.

There is one big exception to the Public Gaming Act in India. It states that “nothing in this Act shall apply to games of mere skill,” which opens the door for the widely popular game of skill, poker. While it is all still a hazy area, there’s no question that poker, especially online, has grown exponentially in India.

Warne, who has been associated with the gaming industry for a long time is also an avid poker player himself. He was the brand ambassador for online poker website 888 poker until 2015. Warne has $137,258 in live tournament poker earnings and is best cash out stands at $35,899 in the 2018 Aussie Millions. Considering his interest for the poker, he insists its high time Indian officials moved on time.

In December 2018, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member’s bill to regulate online sports betting and penalize match-fixing and cheating in sport, read our article here for further details. The Bill presents a ray of hope and is currently pending discussion in the parliament.

Warne’s comments are no ramble and in fact are in sync with the advice from legal experts, jurists and cricket administrators, including the Law Commission of India who have all stated that legalizing and regulating sports betting would benefit the system and usher in more transparency in the sport.

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