New Delhi hosting the 2023 G20 Leaders’ Summit is the culmination of India’s presidency over the global organization which covers “around 80% of gross world product (GWP), 75% of international trade, two-thirds of the global population, and 60% of the world’s land area” according to Wikipedia.
India focused its presidency on the topics of climate crisis, international finances and energy security, as well as cryptocurrency regulation. At the same time, the main theme of the 2023 Leaders’ Summit is “One Earth, One Family, One Future” – the English version of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” in Sanskrit.
Climate, Debt, and Crypto Are Relevant Issues, but What About Gambling?
“While all of these areas are relevant, there is a big elephant in the room in the form of regulation, especially gambling and betting,” as stated by SevenJackpots‘ chief editor Felicia Wijkander in her latest opinion article.
All other G20 member nations have clarified their stance on gambling and betting, Wijkander writes, with the exception of India. Some have regulated it and introduced licensing, some have banned it altogether, while India is basically not allowing it with the one hand, and trying to tax it rather heavily with the other, to become the only member that stays in the gray area.
Most of the other G20 countries have successfully lowered their problem gambling rates through responsible gaming measures, and the most prominent example is provided by the UK – described by the author as “one of the strictest liberal gambling regulations globally”, who have lowered their gambling addictions to 0.5%.
Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have banned gambling due to religious realities, and then there are several G20 members who have prohibited the activity in view of internal political implications. And these are the countries that report high gambling rates – between 2.5% and 4% for China, and 5.5% for South Korea, SevenJackpots Editor-in-Chief points out.
“It’s pretty obvious that regulation (or homogenous religious participation) works better than blanket bans. Despite this, India has not announced any official nationwide or state-wide regulation plan,” Wijkander writes.
“Instead, the responsibility has been put on private actors to apply for “Self-Regulatory organization status,” which, without a revamped national gambling law, won’t be able to do much else than focus on categorizing various real money games as games of skill or chance,” she concludes.
A Responsible Approach to Gambling
The key question relating to a nation’s stance on gambling is which option is more responsible – a blanket ban aimed to eliminate all associated problems like in China and South Korea, or official legalization of gambling in exchange of strict but adaptive rules like in the UK.
Unfortunately, however, the stark 11-fold difference between the British and South Korean problem gambling rates is only one side of the coin.
Banning gambling for political reasons in a country where there is demand, is in practice turning it into a game of cat and mouse with law enforcement authorities. For India, we are speaking about a $130 billion market revolving mostly around sports betting, according to KPMG figures from 2019.
This inevitably results in money laundering and various linked criminal activities: unwanted “side effects” that have an equal, if not higher, potential to ruin lives and families than gambling addictions, and can corrupt a whole state or even pose an international threat.
“India must take the lead on regulating gambling and betting. We need to create an environment of responsible gaming, gambling and betting. We need to address the serious associated problems with money laundering, terror financing (for cryptocurrencies in particular), online security, fraud, underage gambling and addiction,” stresses Uday Walia, Partner at lawyer firm Touchstone Partners, quoted by Felicia Wijkander.