Sunday, September 18, 2005


All bets off!

Amit Varma recommends legalising betting as a way to end match-fixing.

This is what I wrote to him in response to the article.

"I agree completely that we must legalise betting on cricket. But I don't agree that it will make match-fixing go away.

"My stand is simple: Allowing betting in one form and not allowing it in another is discriminatory. Period.

"I also agree that legalising betting may bring in more regulation. But it's not the mere fact of regulation that will make match-fixing go away but the quality of regulation. And we all know how good governments can be at regulation.

"All legal forms of betting are frequently fixed. We have seen stock market scams. Fixing allegations are a part of horse racing. The lottery is one big scam, sponsored by the government and now private companies too. Even if these were not fixed, the odds are so shameful that it would put off even the most intrepid of punters, leaving the greater fools to be suckered. Casinos in the US are not all above board despite all the regulation.

"Second, I don't think legalising betting will stop the flow of black money. Casinos in the US continue to be the preferred destination of drug and organised crime money. I won't be surprised if a lot of black money is making its way to stock markets.

"What underpins all the scams, scandals and fixing is simple human greed. More the money, greater the greed. That's something no amount of regulation can handle :)"

But, as Amit says in reply to my mail, legalising betting is the best place to start. In his words: "Remove the stagnant water and there won't be so many mosquitos. There'll be still be some, and it'll be easier for the repellents to tackle."

On another tangent: I have a theory, and I don't have any historical evidence to back it up. The better the odds offered by a form of betting (that is based on chance and not events), the more likely that it will be fixed. The house must always win: the best way to win is either by loading the dice in your favour, or loading the odds in your favour. The operators of the Playwin probably won't need to fix the results, because the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of the house.

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