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November 1, 2000

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The CBI Report in Full -- Part 2

Chapter 2: Betting Syndicates in India

a) History: Although betting on cricket matches was taking place on a one to one basis on a small scale prior to 1983, betting through syndicates, ironically, started on a major scale only after India's triumph in the 1983 World Cup. This was the period when live telecast of matches featuring India, both at home and abroad, started on a regular basis. Initially, betting was restricted to groups of friends, but by the late 1980s, it had become more organised, and a number of bookies spawned in major metropolitan cities. An interesting feature of this racket was the fact that this was set in motion mainly by bookies who were involved in betting at horse-racing.

By early 1990s, betting on cricket had spread across India and had attained a measure of sophistication. Typically, all that a bookie needed to start his profession wa a telephone connection, a television set, a notebook and a clientele who were basically known to the bookie through various contacts.

As at the race course, in cricket also, a person who places bets with a bookie is called a punter. Any cricket match which is shown live on television, whether an international, domestic, veteran or festival match, activates the betting syndicate. All transactions in this trade are carried out by word of mouth. For example, if a punter wants to place his bets on a particular match, all that he does is call up his bookie over telephone, find out the odds, and place his bets for a particular amount. No money changes hands at this point of time and the punter's bet is duly entered by the bookie in his note book. After the conclusion of the match, exchange of money takes place and the note book is destroyed. In the early years, betting was mainly confined to the final outcome of a match, but over a period of time, betting on individual scores, team scores, etc, generally termed spread betting, also started.

By the middle of the 1990s, with a surfeit of one day matches being shown live on television and also the onset of cable revolution in which international matches featuring countries other than India also began to be telecast live, betting had taken the shape of a massive organised racket. The introduction of mobile phones in the mid '90s also gave a major fillip to this racket, since bookies and punters were no longer solely dependent on P&T lines for communication and could therefore be more mobile. Bombay emerged as the main centre for betting, followed by Delhi and other metropolitan cities such as Calcutta, Chennai, Ahmedabad, and even smaller district towns. Bombay took the lead in this racket since the ods on which bets were played in any match throughout India were determined by the bookies based in Bombay. Currently also, Bombay remains the base around which all betting operations in India revolve.

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