Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur on Thursday said legalising betting and getting it into the formal economy will help contain unholy and corrupt” practices like match-fixing besides giving tax revenues. He made the remarks at an event hosted by ICICI Securities, responding to a suggestion by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister’s (EACPM) part-time member and mutual fund industry veteran Nilesh Shah, who pitched for legalising betting in the country. It can be noted that betting on sports is legal across many countries of the world and reports of such cartels being busted frequently get reported, pointing to a prevalence of the activity. Shah said there is a natural instinct among Indians to bet and gamble, which is seen in abundance in places like Las Vegas, Macau and Nepal.
“My suggestion will be to legalise betting and gambling activities, which are underground. They continue to exist in our society,” he said. Responding to the same, Thakur, who has also been closely involved with cricket administration, said countries like Australia and England have legalised betting. Thousands of crore of revenue comes to the exchequer through the activity and it gets spent on development of the sport or in other activities, he said. “If we look at the problem of match-fixing, then the trends in betting can give us leads on whether something unholy is happening or not. Betting can become a potent tool to stop fixing, he said. Thakur added that betting is systemic and the same system can be very useful in watching over people who are indulging in match-fixing. Shah said there is also a need for the Finance Ministry to continue focusing on strategic divestments like the one of BPCL and also pointed out that the market capitalisation of state-run companies has plummeted to Rs 14 lakh crore, or 52 per cent from May 2014 to September 2020.
He said there are over 9,000 ‘enemy properties’ under the custody of the government should be monetised at the earliest and estimated the same to yield upwards of Rs 1 lakh crore. Thakur said India will get its growth back and re-emerge as the world’s fastest growing economies and added that COVID has taught us that self-reliance is equally important as globalisation. To alleviate the issues of liquidity for non-bank lenders, the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme 2.0 was introduced and extended, he said, adding banks have approved purchase of a portfolio of Rs 26,077 crore and are currently in process of approval/negotiations for INR 2,467 crore more. He said India’s ranking in judicial reforms is not satisfactory and there are issues relating to implementation of contracts which forces companies to go to Singapore or London. “We are working on improving the enforcement of contracts,” he said.