Trivial Pursuits in Indian Gambling

Taxpayer money spent on futile gambling arrests in India.

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Having the highest per capita income in the India also has its downsides. One of them is the proliferation of illegal gambling, as residents in the northwestern city of Chandigarh found out again over the weekend.

According to Indian gambling laws essentially all wagering activity is illegal, with a special attention given to the running and visiting of public gaming houses. Acting under this law police raided several locations between Friday and Sunday, arresting 26 people and confiscating approximately Rs 70,000 (USD 1,300) from suspected illegal operators.

This follows a total of 32 cases of illegal gambling in January.

“We received information regarding the gambling business being operated from different parts of Chandigarh for the last few months. After a reconnaissance, we laid a trap and arrested the accused red-handed. We have also recovered gambling slips and cash from the possession of the accused,” said a local police source.

A week before several raids had been conducted in the northern city of Nagpur, leading to 31 arrests, the recovery of around Rs 90,000 and the seizing of minor assets, such as mobile phones.

Although the police activity is commendable, such cases highlight both the inefficiency of applicable Indian laws and the weakness of enforcing them. While the annual revenue in the illegal Indian gambling industry is estimated to be worth billions of dollars, it is highly questionable what influence such raids can have on the overall state of things.

Although gambling is mostly illegal in the country, it is also very popular, with millions of locals taking every opportunity to bet on sports in India. Such raids will not change it the least bit.

Moreover, In light of other pressing issues affecting India’s public safety, it is also a very dubious use of valuable police resources. Even more so, considering that penalties for being caught in the act are usually minimal and judges tend to be less than sympathetic to police efforts of flooding the courts with such inconsequential cases.

As a result, these anti-gambling crackdowns are essentially nothing more than police PR stunts and defendants walk free on bail almost as soon as they are arrested.

It appears clear that these actions are really swimming against the tide. In such a largely tech-savvy society with a flair for gambling it is surely just a matter of time before online and mobile casino gambling and sports betting become legally available.

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