In a world without match-fixing, online betting is healthy

The time to herald in the new year has come, and it brings with it joyous tidings on the sporting front as eminent Congress leader and Minister of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor took the initiative to introduce a ‘Private bill’ that would look to penalise match-fixing and regulate betting done on online sporting platforms.

With the sole intention of making the field of sports a place where no dirty practices go unnoticed, Tharoor introduced the Bill in the Lower House on 28th December 2018. The Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) hopes to establish a rock-solid administration system that will prevent and penalise acts of match-fixing and regulate the betting scene in online gaming, which has seen a steady rise over the past few years.

There are several pros and cons associated with the act of online betting which most tend to overlook while railing against it. In a country teeming with billions of fans who consider cricket to be their religion and celebrated India’s victory over Australia in every house, a significant chunk of that populace is glued to the sport because of the various pre-match, in-match and post-match sponsored contests that flash on the screen. This form of betting is brilliant and latches onto the viewer and automatically almost makes him take an interest in the sport and follow it regularly, in most cases.

The concept of betting which allows for specific prizes to be won or getting a chance to meet your favourite player makes the world of sports interactive, and you feel like you are a part of the proceedings. Thanks to technology, we can opt for being more than just a viewer or a fan and get involved in the twists and turns of a match. Throughout any match, there are sites, and the television which keeps asking for our thoughts, our reactions, our suggestions on the what the way forward should look like and somehow responding to that helps us stay connected with the sport and the players.

The taboo that is associated with betting is a little challenging to demolish, but we need to realise the significant role it plays in piquing the interest of a person who may not have been a regular follower of sports. Interactive questions thrown in before and during the match by the organisers and broadcasters help the interest in sports grow constructively and engage a dedicated fan base.

Today cricket would not be such a major sensation had not there been an initiative to popularise it, be it through advertisements on the television or articles in the paper or quirky online contests that gave a closer view of the players and the sport. Any sport is what it is simply because of a universal effort is taken to ensure it’s appeal and entertainment value that helps secure a loyal fan base. In this age of high-paying leagues, the concentration no longer lies on the sport but has dissipated considerably to rest on other factors that envision the engagement of more fans for the sport.

However, several leagues have fallen prey to acts of match-fixing and spot-fixing activities which tarnish the very integrity of sports. The Indian Premier League (IPL) fell into several scandalous events which saw notable players like the pacer S Sreesanth getting caught in heinous activities that lead to ‘got-up’ matches, which tamper with the sanctity of the sport. Congressman Shashi Tharoor’s Bill primarily objects to this kind of corrupt practices and seeks to penalise such actions. When it comes to online betting, the fine line has to be recognised, and only the pros of it only should be regarded. Online betting in India is a quick and easy way to capture the interest of the fans and keep them coming back for more. So long as this form of betting is regulated properly, it will assure a host of new fans of sports who will take an avid interest in it.

This bill will prove to be a game changer if it is successfully implemented and Shashi Tharoor deserves to be lauded for taking this much-awaited initiative. Let’s hope that 2019 can see us witnessing a good year for sports, free from match-fixing  and other such preposterous scandals that demolish the integrity of sports.