Gambling is said to be as old as civilization itself. And given that some of the world’s earliest civilizations emerged in India, it’s hardly surprising that Indians love to gamble. Remember, Yudhisthir’s little flutter without which the whole of the Mahabharata would never have taken place. Gambling is as un-Indian an activity as cheering for Pakistan in an Indo-Pak cricket match.
Indians gamble all year around. It may not always be at Macau or Singapore or Genting or Colombo, but even surreptitiously at their own backyard, in their farmhouses in metro suburbs or apartments in tony localities, like Delhi’s leafy Panchsheel Enclave. Come Diwali, countless homes across the country host teen-patti parties in what is deemed to be a quasi-religious rite to woo Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Never mind that sporting events, such as the recent World Cup, see thousands of crores changing hands via an established network of bookies who cock a snook at the law which declares them to be illegal.And now the IPL where Players are bought like vegetables. It is not cricket but organised gamble. Just speak to one eminent Member of Parliament of a Left party and he will tell you all.
Why not make at least online gambling legalised in India ?”
With a flourishing economy, a growing, tech-savvy middle class, and a rapidly expanding internet network, gambling – and online gambling especially – is booming in India. Against that backdrop, you would imagine the Indian state would be keen to secure its slice of the proceeds. But yet, thanks to antiquated laws (some of which date back to colonial times like the 1867 Public Gambling Act), gambling – both land-based and online – remains largely unregulated in India. It is a $7 billion dollar industry in India. We anyway have horse racing, SJP’s cockfight in UP, Rummy and Stock market trading as legalised. What is considered to be a game of chance and game of skill are somewhat skewed compared to other countries, however.
No matter the denial mode of our political establishment, and whether we like it or not, India is a nation of gamblers. You get up in the morning and turn on the bathroom tap to brush your teeth. Will there be any paani or not? It’s a gamble. You come home dead beat after a hard day’s work, and put on the light switch. Will there be bijli or not? It’s a gamble. Will your child get admitted to any of the half-a-dozen schools you’ve applied to? It’s a gamble.
But perhaps the biggest gamble of all is our democracy. Each time we have an election what we’re all gambling on is that the new government which will come into office will be better than the previous one, even though you know that the ‘House always wins.’. Whatever government comes in, it’s always the sarkar which wins and the voter who loses.
According to one guesstimate, if the government were to legalise gambling it would earn enough by way of revenue, by imposing a tax on every wager made, to be able to send to school every single child in the country. The people who made this guesstimate did not say what those children would do after they’d finished their free schooling as the government would probably not be able to provide them with jobs. No matter. They could always set up shop as self-employed bookies, which presumably remains a lucrative business which would earn the sarkar enough revenue to send the next generation of kids to free school, and so on and on, till we’d all become a nation of school-pass bookies.
Want to bet? Lets have a last throw of dice.