Khasi Jaintia Christian Leaders Forum Concerned over Regulated Gambling
Earlier in May this year, the Khasi Jaintia Christian Leaders Forum (KJCLF) held a meeting with Conrad K. Sangma, chief minister of Meghalaya, in order to voice their concerns over the state government’s decision to legalize and regulate offline and online gambling and betting.
“Our concern is with the immoral aspects of it; the immorality, the character of the citizens of the state from individuals to families,” Reverend EH Kharkongor, Secretary of KJCLF, told the media after the meeting.
“Another concern is that a person engaged in gambling…studies have shown detrimental impact, like mental health and other implications. It also leads to criminal activities, affecting the individual, family and the society in different ways,” Reverend Kharkongor continued.
During the meeting, the KJCLF representatives received assurances by CM Sangma that if the state government would proceed with implementing the new gambling regulation, the views of various stakeholders, particularly including the general public, will be taken into consideration.
The Chief Minister also told the religious leaders that the government would make sure to introduce the necessary rules and measures for the protection of Meghalaya residents and citizens.
“This act having come out, we have urged the government to repeal the Act but since it hasn’t been implemented, we cannot take or give any word since we need to discuss as a forum what is going to happen next,” Reverend Kharkongor commented.
According to the KJCLF Secretary’s words, the religious organization was shocked to learn the news about Meghalaya adopting legislation to regulate gambling and betting. At the same time, when asked about the Christian Leaders’ view on the ongoing gambling activities in the state, Reverend Kharkongor said that KJCLF does not encourage any forms of gambling.
Regulated or Illegal Gambling: Which One is the Real Problem?
The shocked moralistic stance against any regulation over gambling of the Khasi Jaintia Christian Leaders Forum in practice means that the church officials prefer citizens to continue to be exposed to illegal gambling and betting practices and again to not have a legal and safe alternative to play. Denying the possibility to have regulated casinos and betting sites in India is seen as the moral high ground, as such a position allows religious leaders to shy away from the real problem caused by illegal wagering by saying they don’t encourage it.
Estimates on the current size of the country’s sports betting market alone vary within a wide range between $40 and $150 billion (roughly between ₹3 and ₹11 lakh crore). Considering the fact that most of this market is illegal and cash-based, even the lower figure is big enough to show that the problem is real and will not disappear by simply denying its existence based on moralistic views.
Estimates further show that a single One-Day International match played by India’s national cricket team can cause as much as ₹1.550 crore ($200 million) to change hands on the black betting market. As a whole, cricket betting is considered to be accountable for around 80 percent of the total sportsbook activities in the country.
Around 14 crores of Indians, or roughly 10 percent of the population, are estimated to bet regularly on sports, and big sport events attract up to 37 crores of bettors. The majority of these people wager illegally over various black market channels such as encrypted chats, back-alley bookies and hawala operators.
Black-market gambling and betting are not so visible, but are far more dangerous for society than legalized and regulated forms. On the one hand, illegal activities send large amounts of money into the hands of criminals, and instead of being taxed, this money may be used to fund other criminal endeavors.
At the same time, black market operations offer no traceability and it is no wonder why match-fixing scandals are so frequent in India. A regulated and transparent betting environment can act as a cure for sports integrity.
On the other hand, at the level of individual players, the black market is ready to take their money, be it as much as possible, but is not able or designed to provide any player protection. As a result, stories of gambling addictions, sinking in large debt, and even suicides, are not an unfamiliar to the Indian media and public.
Gambling and betting regulations are not aimed at creating these activities, they are aimed at putting them under control and making them safer. Regulations introduce rules and safeguards designed to shield players from the usual risks coming from gambling and thus represent the true high moral ground for any government to take.