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Towards a Suitable Policy Framework for Cricket Betting in India - By Deeksha Malik

Editor's note: Deeksha Malik is a final-year student at National Law Institute University, India. Her main interest areas are corporate law, arbitration, and sports law. She can be reached at dkshmalik726@gmail.com.


In 2015, while interrogating cricketer Sreesanth and others accused in the IPL match-fixing case, Justice Neena Bansal, sitting as Additional Sessions Judge, made the following observations as regards betting on cricket matches.

“Cricket as a game of skill requires hand-eye-coordination for throwing, catching and hitting. It requires microscopic levels of precision and mental alertness for batsmen to find gaps or for bowlers to produce variety of styles of deliveries’ (medium pace, fast, inswing, outswing, offspin, legspin, googly). The sport requires strategic masterminds that can select the most efficient fielding positions for piling pressure on the batsmen. Based on above description, cricket cannot be described anything, but as a game of skill.”

The debate on the issue of betting in sports has since resurfaced and gained the attention of sportspersons, media, sports bodies, policymakers, and the general public. In April 2017, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar agreed to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking an order directing the government to come up with an appropriate framework for regulating betting in sports. The arguments put forth in the PIL present various dimensions. One of these pertains to economic considerations, a submission that regulated betting would be able to generate annual revenue of Rs. 12,000 crores by bringing the earnings therefrom within the tax net. As for policy considerations, it was submitted that a proper regulation in this area would enable the government to distinguish harmless betting from activities that impair the integrity of the game such as match-fixing. Further, betting on cricket matches largely depends on the skill of the concerned players, thereby distinguishing it from pure chance-based activities.

The issue of sports betting witnesses a divided opinion till this day. This is understandable, for both sides to the issue have equally pressing arguments. Aside from its regulation being a daunting task for authorities, sports betting is susceptible to corruption and other unscrupulous activities. At the same time, it is argued that it would be better for both the game and the economy if the same is legalised.

THE MAGNITUDE OF CONSIDERATIONS

It is feared by some that the consequences of recognition and legalisation of betting could be negative, considering what happened in Australia. Australia legalised online betting in 2001, and by 2009, it found itself in a situation where betting took over the sporting landscape in a big way. The impact was clearly visible; betting was marketed extensively in public places, attracting many young potential punters. Some found the trend disturbing, for sports fans were more concerned about their personal gains than about the sport itself. It is estimated that around 500,000 Australians are on the verge of becoming “problem gamblers.”

There has been an increasing support for the other side of the debate that argues for recognition of betting as a legal activity. It is argued that criminalising betting does not prevent its happening; it merely drives the activity underground where it continues to thrive. Add to it the substantial revenues that government would be able to obtain therefrom. In fact, the Report of the Supreme Court Committee on Reforms in Cricket, also called the Lodha Committee Report, submitted that given the worldwide legal sports betting market which is worth over $400 billion, it will be in the best interest of the economy if betting is given legal recognition.

POSITION IN THE USA AND THE UK: GROWING ACCEPTANCE OF THE UK-BASED MODEL

In the USA, federal law has taken a tough stand against betting and gambling. The 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) makes it unlawful for a person to sponsor, operate, advertise, or promote betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based, directly or indirectly, on one or more competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate. The provision prima facie makes no distinction between betting and gambling, and it is, therefore, irrelevant for the purpose of establishing an offence under this provision whether the activity in question involves skill or not.

On the other hand, one may refer to the position in the UK, where there has been a well-developed betting market with appropriate measures to ensure that the system is not abused. The governing organisation in this regard is the UK Gambling Commission, initially set up under the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act which works in partnership with all the sporting bodies which, in turn, frame their own bye-laws to regulate betting.[1] Apart from licensing requirements, the framework provides for an information-sharing system, whereby bookies are required to report any suspicious betting activity within their knowledge to the Gambling Commission.[2] The example of the UK shows how through appropriate safeguards and implementation policy that involves various stakeholders such as the sports bodies and the booking companies, sports betting could be effectively regulated, bringing, at the same time, significant economic advantage. It does not come as a surprise that a majority of Americans have advocated for a UK-based model.

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States began dealing with the issue in the case of Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. The State of New Jersey seeks to get the PASPA annulled, which, in turn, would facilitate state-sponsored sports betting. It is being submitted that the federal government through the aforesaid statute is violating the anti-commandeering principle of the Tenth Amendment, according to which states cannot be mandated to carry federal acts into effect. The outcome of the case would certainly have an impact on the debate, one way or the other.

POSITION IN INDIA: THE ‘GAME OF SKILL’ DEBATE

In India, the power to legislate on betting and gambling is conferred on states, since these subjects are enlisted in the State List. Nevertheless, the pre-independence legislation, namely the 1867 Public Gambling Act (Act), is still valid today, though some states have enacted their own laws pertaining to betting and gambling. Section 12 of this Act provides that it does not apply to a ‘game of skill.’ The legislation, therefore, makes a distinction between a ‘game of chance’ and a ‘game of skill.’ The term ‘game of chance’ has been explained in the case of Rex v. Fortier[3] as a game “determined entirely or in part by lot or mere luck, and in which judgment, practice, skill or adroitness has honestly no office at all or is thwarted by chance.” It has further been held in the case of State v. Gupton that any athletic game or sport is not a game of chance and instead depends on a number of factors such as skill, ability, form and practice of the participants.

At this juncture, reference must be made to the case of KR Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu, wherein it was held by the Supreme Court of India that horse racing, foot racing, boat racing, football and baseball are all games of skill. Betting on, say, a horse race entails use of evaluative skills in order to assess several factors such as speed and stamina of the horse, performance of the jockey, and the like. Similarly, the Supreme Court in State of Andhra Pradesh v. K Satyanarayana observed that rummy is not like a three-card game which is based substantially on chance. There is considerable amount of skill involved in memorising the cards, or in holding and discharging them, in a rummy game. The uncertainty involved in shuffling and distribution of the cards does not alter the character of the game to one based on chance.

Based on these judgments, it is reasonable to infer that betting in cricket, too, is an activity involving sufficient skill and is not based merely on chance. A person who studies the form and performance of a player, the conditions of play and the like could predict the outcome of a game with a reasonable accuracy. The mere uncertainty of the outcome should not come in the way of understanding sports betting as an activity based on skill. Considering this important factor, the government should proceed to develop an appropriate framework to regulate betting. 

A PRACTICAL POLICY FRAMEWORK

The International Cricket Council, too, has suggested that India should come up with a suitable policy framework to regulate betting.[4] Such a framework would keep a check on individuals and further help detect and prevent corrupt activities. The above-mentioned Lodha Committee Report has strongly recommended legalising cricket betting in India. The suggestion is based on the premise that while match-fixing interferes with the integrity of the game itself and is unacceptable, betting is a “general malaise” indulged by different sections of the society and is capable of being regulated. Therefore, betting should not be equated with unscrupulous activities such as match-fixing.

Having been so distinguished, a regulation along the lines of the UK model could be put in place to establish regulatory watchdogs tasked with monitoring betting houses and persons entering into betting transactions. Those placing bets could be brought within a licensing system wherein their identification and other details are recorded. This could be supplemented by an information-sharing mechanism whereby a database of undesirable entities such as bookies and fixers would be shared with players so that they do not remain in the dark with respect to suspicious activities. Importantly, players, match officials and administrators should be kept out of such regulated betting, and they should continue to be bound by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and IPL rules. It is important to note here that the BCCI Anti-Corruption Code prohibits participants from soliciting, authorising, placing, accepting, laying, or otherwise entering into any bet with any person in relation to the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of any match or event. The Code further makes it an offence to ensure “the occurrence of a particular incident in a match or event, which occurrence is to the participant’s knowledge the subject of a bet and for which he/she expects to receive or has received any reward.” As can be seen from the provisions, the liability is imposed specifically on the participant. This is in line with the opinion of the Lodha Committee, which has recommended that if betting were to be legalised, the players should nevertheless be barred from indulging in the activity so as to prevent any apprehension concerning their integrity. It is submitted that bringing these reforms in the current uncertain and highly ambiguous regime would address several surrounding issues, provided all the stakeholders work in tandem.

Lesson could be learnt from the state of Nagaland, which recently enacted a law, namely the 2016 Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act. The said legislation defines “games of skill” as including “all such games where there is a preponderance of skill over chance, including where the skill relates to strategising the manner of placing wagers or placing bets, or where the skill lies in team selection or selection of virtual stocks based on analyses, or where the skill relates to the manner in which the moves are made, whether through deployment of physical or mental skill and acumen.” Besides providing such an inclusive definition, the Act sets out a schedule enlisting certain activities that shall be regarded as games of skill, such as poker, rummy and virtual games of cricket and football. All such games shall be regulated by way of issuance of a license to persons or entities based in India. Upon receiving the license, such a person or entity is eligible to earn revenue from games of skill, whether by way of advertising, obtaining a share of winnings or charging a fee for membership.

Some stakeholders are advocating for a uniform legislation on betting that would ensure that the legal position on betting remains the same across all the states. In July 2017, the All India Gaming Federation along with an advisory panel presented a white paper to Law Commissioner BS Chauhan, recommending a central legislation regulating online skill gaming, and that sports betting in general and cricket betting in particular be recognised as a game of skill. Such a legislation could introduce a system of checks and balances along the lines of that existing in the UK, for instance. A proposal has also been moved from the Central Information Commission in the case of Subhash Chandra Agrawal v. PIO, recommending the Government of India to consider moving the subject of sports from the State List in the Constitution of India to the Concurrent List so as to ensure a uniform policy regulating sports bodies and national sports federations such as the BCCI.

CONCLUSION

The international discourse on the issue of sports betting shows just how inadequate the Indian legal regime is to cater to the same. Suggestions have been pouring in from all quarters as to how, upon being legalized, cricket betting could be regulated. These suggestions, along with international best practices concerning ethics and betting, should be taken into account by the legislature and the executive to bring in an appropriate framework to address cricket betting. This, of course, requires the active participation of all the stakeholders, with the BCCI leading the way. 


[1] Ali Qtaishat and Ashish Kumar, ‘Surveying the Legality Issues and Current Developments’ (2013) 20 JL Policy and & Globalization 40, 42.

[2] See Gambling Act 2005 s 88.

[3] Rex v. Fortier 13 Que. KB 308.

[4] Rohini Mahyera, ‘Saving Cricket: A Proposal for the Legalization of Gambling in India to Regulate Corrupt Betting Practices in Cricket’ (2012) 26 Emory Int'l L. Rev.

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Asser International Sports Law Blog | All posts tagged 'Competition Law'

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – June 2016. By Kester Mekenkamp

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.   


The headlines

What a month June turned out to be. Waking up the morning after the 23rd, the results of the UK referendum on EU membership were final. The words of Mark Twain: “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today”, might provide the most apt description of the mood felt at the time.[1] The Leave campaign’s narrow victory has brought along tremendous economic, political and legal uncertainties for both the UK and the (other) Member States. To give but one example, with regard to the implications of Brexit on Europe’s most profiting football league, we recommend an older blog by Daniel Geey and Jonny Madill. More...


The EU State aid and sport saga: The Showdown

It’s been a long wait, but they’re finally here! On Monday, the European Commission released its decisions regarding State aid to seven Spanish professional football clubs (Real Madrid on two occasions) and five Dutch professional football clubs. The decisions mark the end of the formal investigations, which were opened in 2013. The Commission decided as follows: no State aid to PSV Eindhoven (1); compatible aid to the Dutch clubs FC Den Bosch, MVV Maastricht, NEC Nijmegen and Willem II (2); and incompatible aid granted to the Spanish football clubs Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Valencia CF, Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Osasuna, Elche and Hércules (3). 

The recovery decisions in particular are truly historic. The rules on State aid have existed since the foundation of the European Economic Community in 1958, but it is the very first time that professional football clubs have been ordered to repay aid received from (local) public authorities.[1] In a way, these decisions complete a development set in motion with the Walrave and Koch ruling of 1974, where the CJEU held that professional sporting activity, and therefore also football, is subject to EU law. The landmark Bosman case of 1995 proved to be of great significance as regards free movement of (professional) athletes and the Meca-Medina case of 2006 settled that EU competition rules were equally applicable to the regulatory activity of sport. The fact that the first ever State aid recovery decision concerns major clubs like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Valencia, give the decisions extra bite. Therefore, this blog post will focus primarily on the negative/recovery decisions[2], their consequences and the legal remedies available to the parties involved.[3] More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – May 2016. By Marine Montejo

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.   


The Headlines

Challenged membership put a lot of emphasis on football federations in May. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) has rendered an award, on 27 April 2016, ordering the FIFA Council to submit the application of the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) for FIFA membership to the FIFA Congress (the body authorised to admit new members to FIFA). The GFA has sought since 1999 to become a member of UEFA and FIFA. In May 2013, it became a member of the UEFA and went on to seek membership of FIFA. More...


FIBA/Euroleague: Basketball’s EU Competition Law Champions League- first leg in the Landgericht München. By Marine Montejo

Editor's note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

On 3 June 2016, the Landgericht München (“Munich Regional Court”) ordered temporary injunctions against the International Basketball Federation (“FIBA”) and FIBA Europe, prohibiting them from sanctioning clubs who want to participate in competitions organized by Euroleague Commercial Assets (“ECA”). The reasoning of the Court is based on breaches of German and EU competition law provisions. FIBA and FIBA Europe are, according to the judge, abusing their dominant position by excluding or threatening to exclude national teams from their international competitions because of the participation of their clubs in the Euroleague. This decision is the first judicial step taken in the ongoing legal battle between FIBA and ECA over the organization of European basketball competitions.

This judgment raises several interesting points with regard to how the national judge deals with the alleged abuse of a dominant position by European and international federations. A few questions arise regarding the competence of the Munich Regional Court that may be interesting to first look at in the wake of an appeal before examining the substance of the case. More...

The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary revisited? (Part 2)

On 18 May 2016, the day the first part of this blog was published, the Commission said in response to the Hungarian MEP Péter Niedermüller’s question, that it had “not specifically monitored the tax relief (…) but would consider doing so. The Commission cannot prejudge the steps that it might take following such monitoring. However, the Commission thanks (Niedermüller) for drawing its attention to the report of Transparency International.”

With the actual implementation in Hungary appearing to deviate from the original objectives and conditions of the aid scheme, as discussed in part 1 of this blog, a possible monitoring exercise by the Commission of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme seems appropriate. The question remains, however, whether the Commission follows up on the intent of monitoring, or whether the intent should be regarded as empty words. This second part of the blog will outline the rules on reviewing and monitoring (existing) aid, both substantively and procedurally. It will determine, inter alia, whether the State aid rules impose an obligation upon the Commission to act and, if so, in what way. More...

The EU State aid and Sport Saga: Hungary’s tax benefit scheme revisited? (Part 1)

The tax benefit scheme in the Hungarian sport sector decision of 9 November 2011 marked a turning point as regards the Commission’s decisional practice in the field of State aid and sport. Between this date and early 2014, the Commission reached a total of ten decisions on State aid to sport infrastructure and opened four formal investigations into alleged State aid to professional football clubs like Real Madrid and Valencia CF.[1] As a result of the experience gained from the decision making, it was decided to include a Section on State aid to sport infrastructure in the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation. Moreover, many people, including myself, held that Commission scrutiny in this sector would serve to achieve better accountability and transparency in sport governance.[2]

Yet, a recent report by Transparency International (TI), published in October 2015, raises questions about the efficiency of State aid enforcement in the sport sector. The report analyzes the results and effects of the Hungarian tax benefit scheme and concludes that:

“(T)he sports financing system suffers from transparency issues and corruption risks. (…) The lack of transparency poses a serious risk of collusion between politics and business which leads to opaque lobbying. This might be a reason for the disproportionateness found in the distribution of the subsidies, which is most apparent in the case of (football) and (the football club) Felcsút.”[3]

In other words, according to TI, selective economic advantages from public resources are being granted to professional football clubs, irrespective of the tax benefit scheme greenlighted by the Commission or, in fact, because of the tax benefit scheme. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – April 2016. By Marine Montejo

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.  


The Headlines

This month saw the conflict between FIBA Europe and the Euroleague (more precisely its private club-supported organizing body, Euroleague Commercial Assets or ‘ECA’) becoming further entrenched. This dispute commenced with FIBA creating a rival Basketball Champions League, starting from the 2016-2017 season with the hope to reinstate their hold over the organization of European championships. The ECA, a private body that oversees the Euroleague and Eurocup, not only decided to maintain its competitions but also announced it would reduce them to a closed, franchise-based league following a joint-venture with IMG. In retaliation, FIBA Europe suspended fourteen federations of its competition (with the support of FIBA) due to their support for the Euroleague project.More...


The boundaries of the “premium sports rights” category and its competition law implications. By Marine Montejo

Editor’s note: Marine Montejo is a graduate from the College of Europe in Bruges and is currently an Intern at the ASSER International Sports Law Centre.

In its decisions regarding the joint selling of football media rights (UEFA, Bundesliga, FA Premier league), the European Commission insisted that premium media rights must be sold through a non-discriminatory and transparent tender procedure, in several packages and for a limited period of time in order to reduce foreclosure effects in the downstream market. These remedies ensure that broadcasters are able to compete for rights that carry high audiences and, for pay TV, a stable number of subscriptions. In line with these precedents, national competition authorities have tried to ensure compliance with remedy packages. The tipping point here appears to be the premium qualification of sport rights on the upstream market of commercialization of sport TV rights.

This begs the question: which sport TV rights must be considered premium? More...

Doyen’s Crusade Against FIFA’s TPO Ban: The Ruling of the Appeal Court of Brussels

Since last year, Doyen Sports, represented by Jean-Louis Dupont, embarked on a legal crusade against FIFA’s TPO ban. It has lodged a competition law complaint with the EU Commission and started court proceedings in France and Belgium. In a first decision on Doyen’s request for provisory measures, the Brussels Court of First Instance rejected the demands raised by Doyen and already refused to send a preliminary reference to the CJEU. Doyen, supported by the Belgium club Seraing, decided to appeal this decision to the Brussels Appeal Court, which rendered its final ruling on the question on 10 March 2016.[1] The decision (on file with us) is rather unspectacular and in line with the first instance judgment. This blog post will rehash the three interesting aspects of the case.

·      The jurisdiction of the Belgian courts

·      The admissibility of Doyen’s action

·      The conditions for awarding provisory measures More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – February 2016

Editor’s note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. 


The Headlines

The eagerly awaited FIFA Presidential elections of 26 February provided for a “new face” at the pinnacle of international football for the first time since 1998. One could argue whether Infantino is the man capable of bringing about the reform FIFA so desperately needs or whether he is simply a younger version of his predecessor Blatter. More...