Betting on bowlers: this just isn't cricket.

Author:Schenk, Erin Gardner
  1. Introduction

    Traditionally, the idiom, "this just isn't cricket," refers to something awry or dishonorable. (1) The expression derives from the strict code of sportsmanship that gave cricket the badge of being the "gentlemen's sport." However, stemming from the increasingly immense popularity of Indian cricket throughout the last century, sports betting--an illegal pastime under India's gambling laws--has also become a huge industry. (2) Because punters (3) often wager enormous sums of money, corruption within the sport of cricket, in the forms of match-fixing and spot-fixing, (4) has become increasingly problematic. (5) In response to this corruption, many Indians advocate for the legalization of gambling, including sports betting, arguing that legalization would remove the incentive to bet on the black market and would generate revenue in the form of gambling taxes. (6) Based on two underlying factors--India's deep, historical ties both to cricket and to England, its former colonizer that brought the sport to the subcontinent, as well as the similarities in the two countries' common law legal systems--Indian prolegalization advocates look to the United Kingdom's (7) recent legalization of gambling as a model for what they argue India should do. (8)

    However, this paper asserts the United Kingdom's gambling laws would not successfully translate into Indian culture due to disparities in the two nations' religious compositions, political landscapes, and legal enforcement mechanisms. Specifically, Section II of this paper provides background as to the relationship between the U.K. and India. It also includes information about the history of cricket and the environment of the sport, both of which are foundational to an understanding of India's current push for gambling legalization. Section III examines the gambling laws in the U.K. and in India, as well as the evolution and progression of those laws. Section IV examines the religious, political, and socioeconomic situation in the U.K., and Section V examines those same three indicia as they pertain to India. These cultural features serve as the framework for understanding each nation's current position regarding the legality of gambling. Section VI then analyzes the differences between the two nations, as detailed in Sections IV and V, and evaluates the prudence of any impending decision to legalize gambling in India. Ultimately, the paper concludes in Section VII with the author's assertion that India's response should not be to legalize gambling, but rather to reaffirm and reinforce its current laws to include increased penalties for infractions, while fostering administrative transparency and improving enforcement mechanisms.


    Scholars are uncertain as to cricket's origins. (9) However, cricket undisputedly and swiftly assumed a position of significance in domestic English high society as well as in its colonial interests. (10) By the eighteenth century, wealthy English landlords often hosted matches amongst their leaseholders and the country folk. (11) The first documented organized county match-up was a Kent-Surrey match in 1709, and evidence indicates that heavy betting existed even in the earliest matches. (12) Not long thereafter, in 1721, the first cricket match in India was documented on the western coast near Kutch. (13)

    Since its independence from England in 1947, (14) India has expended extensive efforts on distancing itself from England's former colonial influence. (15) Despite these efforts and despite the colonial origins of Indian cricket, (16) the popularity of the sport has soared amongst the Indian people since the mid-twentieth century.

    From the early days, the idiom, "this just isn't cricket"--referring to something that lacks honor, propriety, or fairness (17)--developed from the fastidious attention supporters paid to the technique with which a player executed each move in what would come to be known as a true "gentleman's sport." (18) British aristocrats who cultivated the sport permitted no cheating and no bodyline bowling. (19) Cricket has long been a self-governing activity with its own set of laws. (20) In fact, the expectation of honor was so deeply ingrained that if an umpire mistakenly failed to call a batsman out, (21) the batsman was expected to walk (22) of his own volition. (23)

    That expectation of propriety notwithstanding, one drastic change in cricket in recent years is the evolution of its faster-paced versions, One Day International (24) cricket and Twenty20 (25) cricket, which have transformed cricket from an elitist sport to one that is enjoyed by the masses. These newer forms of cricket offer swifter spectator gratification than the traditional form, "Test" cricket, in which matches span up to five days, incorporate planned pauses for "tea," (26) and are played in classic white cricket flannels. (27) The concept of Twenty20 cricket originated in 2003 when the England and Wales Cricket Board was faced with replacing the one-day Benson and Hedges Cup. (28) Twenty20 cricket is a substantially condensed (one innings (29) [sic] per team, each innings consisting of twenty overs (30)) and colorfully-clad version of cricket. (31) The launch of international Twenty20 cricket, as well as the Indian Premier League ("IPL"), which followed in 2008, (32) has drastically changed the face of cricket in India. Indians have worshiped Twenty20 cricket from the moment India defeated archrival Pakistan and won the inaugural International Cricket Council ("ICC") World Twenty20 tournament in September of 2007. (33)

    Although the advent of Twenty20 cricket itself is not the source of cricket corruption in India, (34) the influx of extremely wealthy investors in Twenty20 cricket--including movie stars and entrepreneurs otherwise unrelated to the sport (35)--has created an environment ripe for corruption. (36) Additionally, with the shortened format of the Twenty20 cricket match and, consequently, the dramatically increased viewership as compared to that of Test cricket, came the increased opportunity for spot-betting. (37)

    Ultimately, although the landscape of the game has changed significantly, the popularity of cricket has only grown. (38) Furthermore, the degree to which Indians hold the sport sacred is exhibited by famous and recently-retired (39) Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar's nomination by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee to the Rajya Sabha, India's upper house of Parliament, (40) based on Tendulkar's "special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service." (41) Tendulkar was also conferred with the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor, "in recognition for [his] contribution to [Indian] society." (42) These distinctions show not only the respect Tendulkar has personally earned from his nation, but more importantly, the tremendous degree to which the sport of cricket is revered in India.


    Even though the very concept of gambling is said to have originated in India (43) with a game involving tossing the Vibhitaka seed to see on which side it would land, (44) India's modern laws prohibit operating, funding, or even being present in a "gaming-house." (45) Gambling is currently illegal in India, with the exceptions of casinos in two states (46) (Goa (47) and Sikkim (48)), horse betting, and certain (usually government-operated) state lotteries. (49) In a recent decision in the High Court of Judicature at Madras, the judge, prior to holding rummy for stakes to be illegal, observed, "the [gambling] activities which have been condemned in this country from ancient times appear to have been equally discouraged and looked upon with disflavour [sic] in England, Scotland, the United States of America[,] and in Australia...." (50) However, this statement appears on the surface to be untrue, at least in recent years, since the U.K.'s Parliament passed a bill legalizing most forms of gambling. (51)

    1. Gambling Laws in the U.K.

      The U.K. Parliament recently passed the Gambling Act, 2005 ("U.K. Act"), legalizing gaming, betting, and participation in a lottery. (52) The U.K. Act also established the Gambling Commission (53) and tasked the commission with regulating commercial gambling in the U.K. (54) However, the evolution of England's gambling laws was a slow process, and the U.K. Act was a departure from the U.K.'s history of prohibiting gambling or only permitting it in specific instances.

      The Unlawful Games Act 1541 [sic] (55) ("1541 Act") initially banned gambling in the U.K. because King Henry VIII believed the popularity of such games was distracting men from the focus of perfecting military skills and protecting the realm. (56) The scope of this ban was broad, even including tennis and "bowls." (57) Because of the stringent nature of the 1541 Act, it was often ignored; therefore, the Gaming Act, 1739 was specifically designed to target lack of enforcement (especially in Ireland) by imposing penalties on any judiciary members, or "Justices of the Peace" that turned a blind eye to enforcement of the laws. (58)

      Largely because the very sweeping prohibitions of the 1541 Act banned healthy and otherwise legitimate sporting activities and because of the lack of reverence paid to the previous laws, 1844 saw the Select Committees of the House of Lords and House of Commons appointed to holistically examine existing gambling laws. (59) Very shortly thereafter, the Gaming Act, 1845 (60) repealed previous enactments prohibiting games of skill. (61) However, it also relieved courts of any obligation to "tak[e] any cognizance" of a claim for money based on a wager, essentially rendering bets unenforceable. (62)

      England's focus also shifted from individual prohibition, although that paradigm remained in place, to prohibition on the availability of gaming opportunities. (63) In addition to making wagers...

To continue reading