Online sports betting operator Betfair has closed betting in India. The announcement that the company would close betting to Indian gamblers was announced late in January in an email which urged users in that country to pull any remaining funds from the site by Jan 28.
They also announced that all pending sportsbook and matched Exchange bets would be honored through the site’s customer service portal, though access to much of the site has now been restricted to users attempting to access the site from inside the country.
The Email Reads as Follows:
“We’re sorry to inform you that we will stop taking bets on Betfair in India in the new year. We will be closing our website for all customers from India on 28th January 2019. All bets placed to that date will be left open. Sportsbook and matched Exchange bets will remain in place until results are determined and markets are settled. Please visit the website and manage any open positions and withdraw any funds in advance of the 28th January 2019. Matched bets after this date will be settled once results have been determined and winnings can be collected through Customer Service. If you are having any difficulties accessing your account or would like to withdraw winnings from settled bets after January 28th 2019, please contact our Customer Service Team to withdraw any outstanding funds. We understand this is frustrating and apologise for any inconvenience which is caused.”
There has been speculation that the move on Betfair’s part, has perhaps been ‘forced’ by the government in the wake of the 2019 General Elections.
Betfair has made no public explanation for its decision, though it comes in the midst of allegations that Betfair and other international gambling operations have conducted less than reputable business practices that violate Indian law.
The site was cited in a letter sent by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The letter accused nine online gambling websites, including 1xbet, Bet365 and other familiar faces of “luring and accepting bets from Indian citizens” without local authorization.
According to reports, The AIGF asked Modi to instruct the government’s Enforcement Directorate to crack down on payment processing services that facilitated financial transactions between Indian betters and the sites mentioned, as India’s central government has yet to authorize their activities.
Just after Christmas, Congress party MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor introduced new legislation that would create a national regulatory and licensing scheme for online sports betting while empowering authorities to crack down on operators lacking a local license and criminals who facilitate match- and spot-fixing.
Gambling activities fall under legislative grey area in India.Although a good percentage is wagered legally on horse racing and lottery, a large amount is wagered on cricket and other sports via illegal and “technically illegal” channels.
The primary legislative document that makes gambling in India a ‘grey’ legality is the Public gambling act. This is an old law created during British rule. This 145 year old law makes operating a gambling house, assisting in the operation of a gambling house, visiting a gambling house (whether gambling or not), financing gambling and being in possession of gambling devices a crime.
There are certain exceptions under this law for lottery and skill games, including some card games, but the law code is rather dated, and leaves loopholes for other gambling activities that may or may not be legal, or ethical.
Currently, the Betfair.com website does not allow bets to be placed from India, and gives the following message on its homepage:
“Our Software detects that you may be accessing the Betfair website from a country that Betfair does not accept bets from. If you believe that this detection has occurred in error, please Contact us for further assistance.”
In modern times when almost all developed countries are legalizing and regulating gambling, ‘morally-sound’ India has kept its eyes closed on an enormous revenue generating opportunity, which may also lead to the curbing of prevalent match-fixing.
Notably, the loopholes in the the centuries old Public Gambling Act had allowed many thrill seeking Indians to open an account with Betfair, despite betting being illegal in the country.
While this may come as disappointing news to some Indian nationals, sites such as Dafabet and other betting sites continue to accept bets. As these sites have not come under government scrutiny, they are presumably operating within legality under Indian laws and statutes.