Betting on Bowlers: This Just Isn't Cricket

By Schenk, Erin Gardner | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Betting on Bowlers: This Just Isn't Cricket


Schenk, Erin Gardner, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


I. 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.

II. BACKGROUND

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. …

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