New BCCI Anti-Corruption Head Opposes Sports Betting
Shabir Hussein Shekhadam Khandwawala is the new head of the anti-corruption unit of the BCCI, a job he took over from Ajit Singh Shekhawat in April 2021. Where Shekhawat spoke out in favour of legalising sports betting with strict regulations, Khandwawala is strictly against sports betting.
The BCCI tries to find irregularities in sports betting and match-fixing with the help of Sportradar. But is there even a correlation?
Does the BCCI encourage legal sports betting?
Certainly, BCCI officials have commented on the matter in the past. One notable example is Ajit Singh Shekhawat, who was the head of the anti-corruption unit (ACU) of the BCCI from April 2018 until March 2021.
At the time he took over the job, at least 12 cricketers had reported corrupt approaches during the past year. Match-fixing is a problem in the smaller leagues, which the BCCI is cracking down on. The main purpose behind match-fixing is earning money from illegally placed sports bets.
Shekhawat said at the time: “Maybe there could be a thinking about legalising gambling so that all this illegal business which goes on can be controlled. Legal betting will be done under some parameters, and it can be controlled.
“It will also bring a huge amount of revenue for the government, close to what the excise department generates. The amount of money which is bet on sport is mindboggling.”
Whilst his opinion is just one of many, the BCCI partnered with Sportsradar in 2020 to monitor all betting activities on the IPL 2020 to see whether there are any irregularities. The BCCI is extremely invested in maintaining the integrity not just of the IPL but of cricket as a whole.
There is a case to be made that legalised sports betting, including betting on cricket, will result in better control mechanisms. Online betting is going rampant in India as well, which even Shekhawat acknowledged cannot be stopped.
Legalising sports betting in India should result in Indian bettors only accessing the safest online betting sites. But the current ACU chief opposes the legalisation of sports betting.
ACU chief opposes sports betting
When Shabir Hussein Shekhadam Khandwawala took over his office in April 2021, he was quick to point out that he does not support the legalisation of sports betting: “Whether the government legalises betting or not is a different matter but deep inside, I feel as a police officer that betting can lead to match-fixing. The government, so far, has rightly not legalized betting.”
He added: “Betting encourages match-fixing so there should not be any change on this. We can make the rules more strict. We will work on that. It is a matter of great prestige that cricket is largely free of corruption. Credit should go to the BCCI for that.”
The BCCI in particular believes that the smaller leagues are in danger of match-fixing, which seems to be supported by the fact that most cricketers who reported corrupt approaches play in local leagues. It does seem easier to try and fix smaller matches rather than the big ones.
But credit should also be given to the cricketers reporting such approaches, who are interested in protecting their sport as well. They want to keep playing in their leagues. That is not possible if the BCCI prohibits franchise based T20 tournaments, which indeed happened earlier this year.
Associations such as the Bihar Cricket Association were informed that their T20 leagues were not approved, and no matches should be played. The BCA went ahead with the Bihar Cricket League anyway and is now facing strict action from the BCCI.
The BCCI wants to curb corruption in the smaller cricket leagues, but does sports betting truly cause match-fixing?
Is sports betting inherently causing match-fixing?
Entire studies have been written on the relationship of sports betting and match-fixing. There can be now doubt that match-fixing is a real problem in many sports. In particular the lower leagues are at risk because they simply don’t pay their players as well as the big leagues, whose players can more easily afford to say no to big bribes. The temptation is real and when your livelihood is concerned, the integrity of the sport will take a backseat.
Of course, those who are behind the match-fixing, are out to make big sums of money themselves, placing illegal sports bets on what they know to be a certain outcome.
As such, illegal sports betting has a big influence on match-fixing. But can the same be said about legal sports betting? Can the argument be made that legalised sports betting will be a useful tool to curb match-fixing and corruption?
Sports betting has been legalised in many countries around the world, that is to say it has also been normalised. Whilst no sport is immune to match-fixing, many countries and states seem to be in favour of strictly controlled betting legalisation. This may not prevent match-fixing, but there also doesn’t seem to be overwhelming evidence that it encourages match-fixing.
The Indian government has yet to take steps one way or another. Sports betting is not currently legal, neither is it truly illegal. Perhaps taking a look at how other governments have addressed the matter will help move legislation along.