Cricket And India's Gambling Industry
Syed Ali Mujtaba
As the World Cup cricket championship in the Caribbean is reaching its crescendo, the betting industry in India too is on its peak. On every match huge money is put on stake and its volume is going to go up to unprecedented heights as the championship is reaching the final stage.
The entire betting industry in India is pegged at about Rs 100,000 crore. The betting syndicate that controls this industry earns money about eight to ten figures on every match while the bookies makes about Rs 50,000 on per match, irrespective of the results of the game.
There is no confusion on the rules of the betting industry. It’s well organized this system and works smoothly and efficiently. Every one abides to the rule books and plays the game as honestly as it can. The motive for all of them is money and not cricket. Cricket is just an excuse to make quick bucks.
How does it work? The entire operation is carried on by the betting syndicate located outside India. The betting syndicate sets the rate of the bet and that’s defined in paisa (hundred paisa makes a rupee). The rates are fixed before the match and the figures starts changing as the match progresses. There is a new read in betting meter when quick runs are scored or some quick wickets fall. The meter moves at a frantic pace during the penultimate phase of the game, especially when if it’s heading for a wire finish.
The betting syndicate has defined its territories and appointed its managers conduct the operation. Mumbai is the head office of the Indian Territory. It controls the entire betting operation of the country. The Mumbai office gets a profit margin of two percent and they give one per cent profit to the bookies located in various town and cities. The bookies are selected by the Mumbai office on ground of their financial strength and influences over the local administration and the police. There could be many bookies operating from the same town.
But who is the syndicate that controls the betting industry? The buzz word is, it’s the D company, the biggest shark in this trade. Some say this operation is run from Dubai, others opinion it’s from Karachi.
Mumbai and Delhi has the highest number of bookies. This followed by Calcutta and Chennai. Even the class two and class three cities have bookies. It’s reliably learnt there are as many as sixty bookies operating from Chennai alone.
How does one play this game? In order to get in cricket betting, one needs to know a punter. The bookie requires the introduction of a punter to register a new entrant in his log books. The punter takes the financial guarantee of the new entrant and decides his financial limits. After few matches, the new entrant becomes a punter and can introduce a new person to the bookie. A punter can play with two bookie or more and many a cases even the bookies are punters.
The minimum stake begins from Rs 1000 and go up to a crore. The local bookie has a financial limit and some can deal up to 25 lakh rupees. Those above that play directly with the Mumbai office. In the betting parlance a crore rupees is called "Khoka". The ‘Khoka punters’ directly deal with the foreign operators. There are many big businessmen and politicians who are alleged to be ‘Khoka punters.’
Every bookie has a clandestine office with computers, tape recorders and many telephone lines. He is constantly in touch with the Mumbai office which in turn is connected with the operators broad. Internet live chat and mobile phones comes handy in such operation. The syndicate constantly updates the new betting rates to its territory managers. The bookies get the information of the new rates that’s two percent higher than set by the syndicate. He adds one percent to it and tells the punters who keep ask them for the current going rate.
The punter has to call the bookie on the mobile phone and first identify himself. Once his ID is verified, he will hear a recorded message on his phone telling the current betting rate.
The punter will keep changing his bet according the situation of the match. He will call the bookie and book his bet. His each call is called a "shout" and his voice would be recorded and his order would be maintained on the log book. The number of “shouts” that’s going to be entertained would be as per the financial limit set up before.
Normally a punter sits with a pen and paper since the beginning of the match. He will keep asking the betting rate and keep booking his “shout”. He will come to know how much money he has made or lost only at the end of the match.
The money settlement is done within 24 hours after the conclusion the match. In case of winning, the bookie will send the cash in an envelope to the house of the punter. In case if he has lost, he needs to be ready with the cash and hand it over to the bookie’s men.
In case if some one refuses to pay and deny making “shouts”, the recoded message will be played to refresh his memory. If there is still hesitation, the bookie will recover the money from the punter who has made the introduction. If such thing happens with any regular punter, the bookies directly deal with such punters. Normally honesty is the key word here, not because any one loves to be honest, but because they want live to play the next game.
In case if the ratio fixed by the syndicate gets upset and bookies looses heavily, in such cases the syndicate bails such bookies out. The bookies from the town and cities send the money to the Mumbai bosses and they in turn remit it to those sitting outside the country. The entire settlement is done within 24 hours after the match.
Such operations though illegal are carried out with the blessing of the police and politicians in a clandestine way. The police station under whose jurisdiction a bookie operates gets its fixed commission. The politicians too get their ‘cut’ to let the operation run smoothly.
The grapevine has it; the entire country went into mourning upset over India early exit from this World cup. The politicians and policemen too were on boil and use their whip to stop the betting industry. The bookies honored the sentiments of the nation and no betting actually took place for next three matches. Thereafter, each bookie gave pooled in some six lakh rupees each and paid to whose-who of the law enforcing agencies to resume the betting industry.
What seem apparent is as the country’s economy is growing so is the cash flow. There is phenomenal rise of the punters and the bookies in every town and city of the country. All those who have unaccounted cash are associated with this industry. It’s a quick way to make big money and even to loose it. The business community, politicians, men in uniform, without uniform, all those who have easy access to cash are involved with this industry.
Currently the stage in which the cricket betting industry has reached, it’s very difficult to reverse its gears. It sits in the same bracket as that of gambling, bootlegging, commercial sex and drugs. Such things can be controlled but can never be eradicated. So where do we go from here? Can we stop the game of cricket? NO. Can we stop any one from betting? NO. Then what do we do? Legalize, cricket betting! Yes. It may make things more transparent and game will be viewed with less suspicion. It would not be cricket if it’s allowed to grow like this!
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org