The Evolution of Sports Betting in India

Sports betting has undergone a major transformation in India over the past decade. From a limited unregulated market, legal sports wagering has rapidly expanded across the country. Multiple factors have fueled this growth, leading to new legislation, more betting options, and a rise in mainstream popularity. Understanding the evolution of sports betting in India provides insight into this flourishing industry.

In the early 2010s, sports wagering existed in a legal gray area in India. There were informal markets but no laws explicitly making it illegal. However, only unlicensed local bookmakers operated due to the lack of regulation. Most Indians bettors used offshore sites instead, though these lacked oversight and security. But in 2013, the Supreme Court of India began discussing frameworks to officially legalize and regulate sports betting.

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The Foundational Sports Act of 2018

These discussions eventually led to the inception of the Sports Act of 2018. This legislation marked the first comprehensive regulations for sports wagering. It established licensing protocols, identified approved events for betting, set tax rates, and implemented consumer protections. The act provided the foundation for legal regulated betting markets to emerge across India.

Several territories quickly established their own regulatory bodies and began issuing licenses to operators. For example, Sikkim issued betting licenses as early as 2009 under the Sikkim Online Gaming Act. This allowed their casino industry to expand into sportsbooks. Other states like Nagaland and Meghalaya also fast-tracked legislation to capitalize on sports wagering demand.

The Launch of Legal Sportsbooks

These newly regulated markets attracted major international sportsbooks to establish operations in India. Their brand recognition and advanced platforms gave them an early edge. However, dozens of licensed domestic operators also launched sportsbooks. This mix of local and international sites gave Indian bettors many new trusted options to choose from.

The Rise of Mobile Betting

Another key evolution was the rise of mobile betting apps. Slow 2G internet previously hindered development, but 4G and smartphone penetration expanded rapidly after 2016. Realizing mobile’s potential, sportsbooks devoted resources into apps with user-friendly interfaces tailored to Indian punters. Many launched in 2020 with polished India-centric apps and others soon followed suit.

Cricket Driving Growth

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has also been instrumental in sports betting’s growth. As T20 cricket has surged in popularity, so has wagering. Betting markets for IPL matches see billions in turnover, especially during play-offs. The India vs Pakistan T20 World Cup match in 2021 generated ₹2,500 crore (~$340 million USD) in bets. This demonstrates cricket’s status as the most lucrative betting sport in India.

Ongoing Challenges and Bright Future

While the legal market has expanded significantly, challenges remain. Offshore sites still siphon customers from regulated books. Match-fixing efforts continue, like the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal. Underage gambling also persists as an issue. However, the regulated industry keeps pushing for higher standards.

Looking ahead, the future is bright. Analysts project India’s regulated sports betting could grow into a $3.7 billion market by 2024. Telecom investments have built strong digital infrastructure for mobile sports betting to thrive. As cultural perceptions of sports wagering improve, this new legal marketplace will continue evolving to engage India’s population of over 1 billion sports fans.

As India’s sports betting industry matures, responsible gambling practices are becoming a higher priority. All licensed operators are required to provide tools for players to control their betting activity. Many books now have deposit limits, wagering caps, timeout periods, and self-exclusion options within their apps and sites. Bet365, for example, allows customers to set daily, weekly or monthly deposit limits to manage their spend. Their Reality Check feature reminds bettors how long they’ve been logged in and displays their account history. Educational resources are also emerging to promote informed betting decisions. Industry leaders have partnered with NGOs to launch awareness campaigns on risks like underage gambling and match-fixing. Counsseling services for problematic gambling are more accessible as well. Ultimately, a focus on responsible wagering will be crucial for the legal market’s long-term viability in India. As entities like the International Sports Integrity Agency provide oversight, sports books must continue prioritizing consumer protection, fairness and transparency. India’s bettors deserve nothing less than a safe, trusted betting experience as the industry expands to engage a betting-enthusiastic population.

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