The online race betting experiment in India has ended just as soon as it started in the midst of a flurry of individual states’ anti-online efforts.
The Indian state of Karnataka rescinded the online betting permit it granted to the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) earlier this year, on Friday, as a way of saving a racing season that had been laid low by COVID-19. The government informed the BTC that the permit was “hereby withdrawn with immediate effect.”
This summer, the BTC obtained permission in principle for online betting as the pandemic stopped the track from accepting any customers, leaving it with no way to execute wagering operations. As a consequence, the BTC was forced to completely cancel its summer season.
The BTC’s winter season began last month before the company’s betting app, digital wallet, and streaming service were ready for prime time, but on November 21, digital wagering finally started.
The Deccan Herald quoted a BTC representative saying that there were a few technological hiccups, but in recent days online betting had been “picking up”. Friday’s news, however, took the wind from the sails of the BTC, with one source from the BTC telling the Herald that the bettors they had signed up would now move to globally approved betting sites.
The decision of the Karnataka government was provoked by a public interest litigation (PIL) filed last month by a local resident who felt that online betting would corrupt local young people and noted that before approving the BTC app, the government had not developed any regulatory structure for digital betting. Pending the outcome of the legal proceedings, the government may reinstate the digital rights of the BTC, but all bets are off for the time being.
In other Indian states, similar litigation has been brought, including a PIL to the Delhi High Court urging the Central Government to enforce a national ban on online gaming, including fantasy sports and rummy sites run by companies such as Delta Corp.
Last month, the state of Tamil Nadu announced a decree banning online gambling, mimicking recent governments’ campaigns in Telegana and Andhra Pradesh. The latter state has gone further than others, threatening not only online gambling operators but also their customers with incarceration, a move that caused some local online operators to file their own PILs opposing this proposal.
The Madras High Court on Monday refused to order a stay on the online ban of Tamil Nadu, even though it asked the state government to respond to the petition lodged by local rummy operator Junglee Games. The company’s point is that an online game shouldn’t be beyond the pale if rummy is allowed in countless land-based clubs across the world.
Although some of the state governments of India may be determined to stand athwart history, a rising chorus of respectable voices have been seen in recent years calling for both land-based and online legal sports betting. There’s a cliché that change occurs extremely slowly and then all at once and the bettors in India are getting tired of the slow portion.