Sports betting link puts Gujarat Titans’ IPL debut in jeopardy, but here’s why it shouldn’t be a concern

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has given the green light to a new franchise, the Gujarat Titans. The Ahmedabad cricketing franchise is all set to make their debut on Season 15 of the IPL, but the past months since CVC Capital acquired the franchise from IPL for Rs 5,625 crore have been fraught with anxiety for the winning bidder.

It appears, however, that this is becoming a case of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)—prompted by opposing parties—making a mountain out of a molehill. But the IPL team’s supposed links to sports betting shouldn’t have placed the cricketing franchise in jeopardy; in fact, it’s in the best interest of the league and even the government to harness the opportunities brought by the thriving industry of legitimate instant withdrawal betting sites in India.

CVC bid for IPL franchise made via Asian fund

Private equity firm CVC Capital made the winning bid in October 2021, and what followed was a rigorous legal scrutiny after objections were raised before the BCCI over the winning bidder’s link to several sports betting companies.

In particular, CVC was questioned about its portfolio—the private equity firm owns sports betting and online gaming company Tipico as well as gaming and payments company Sisal. It’s worth noting that CVC’s investments in these two companies were made via the firm’s European fund, whereas the bid for the IPL franchise was done via CVC’s Asian fund.

Sonam Banerjee, an associate at Pioneer Legal law firm, explained the distinction between the two funds to Money Control, saying: “CVC had bid for the Ahmedabad franchise through its Asian fund, which had not invested in any businesses that were considered to be illegal under Indian law. Since private firms such as CVC invest in various entities, the lack of a direct nexus between the Asian fund of CVC and its investment in any business considered to be illegal under Indian law appears to have ultimately worked in CVC’s favour.”

All signs point to regulation, especially with cricket and betting

On paper, CVC Capital was put under the spotlight due to some investments held in betting operators in Malta and the United Kingdom. In actuality, the controversy appears to have stemmed from parties with supposed altruistic views of keeping cricket sports away from the so-called “vices of gambling.”

Former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi was one of the first to raise the alarm on CVC owning “a big betting company.” And his objection prompted the BCCI to conduct an independent external review, which also resulted in CVC receiving clearance to join the bidding process.

The opposing parties have already justified their reasons for attempting to veer sports fans from sports betting, but they’re missing the big picture here. At the moment, 80 percent of India’s sports betting market is already cricket-based, and cricket wagering turnovers are projected to reach US$ 100 billion, according to an ENV Media research on sports betting trends in the country.

The fact is that cricket has become an intrinsic cultural trait of the majority of Indians, and desi players in urban and small-town betting communities are seeing cricket matches as an opportunity to earn quick money. And the popularity of betting on cricket matches isn’t going away anytime soon—the question is how the government should utilize the opportunities that the thriving sports betting market brings to boost the country’s economy.

India already has a thriving online gaming market; what it needs is to modernize its outdated laws and adopt a uniformed regulatory framework that allows the market to keep up with the rapidly changing technologies for the benefit of the players, the operators, the leagues, and the government.

“Quite simply, cricket is part of the culture; and betting on cricket is part of the sports for many,” ENV Media analysts wrote in their report.

Disclaimer: Gambling involves an element of financial risk and maybe addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk. Subject to applicable laws.