It’s business as usual for matka in Goa although their operations have moved online—at least until the elections to the state legislative assembly are over.
Matka bookies asked to ‘lie low’ during elections Reports recently surfaced that operators of the “lucrative business” of matka in Goa have been alerted to escape attention during the weeks leading up to the State Legislative Assembly general elections. A Times of India report quoted sources saying bookies “have been told by the police that there is danger that authorities could crackdown in the run up to the elections.”
This tip has reportedly prompted the operators to go the “online” route, but only in the sense that bookies can be contacted via messaging platforms like WhatsApp where players can place their bet on the winning number and bookies will send a photo of the bet’s confirmation ‘slip.’ The shops and outlets are closed for all intents and purposes, but the business of matka continues.
As the Times of India source pointed out, “The matka business is based entirely on trust. A day or two after you have placed the bet on call or WhatsApp, one has to either make a casual visit to the spot to pay the bookie or collect the winning amount. Everything is dealt in cash.”
Why are matka bookies tolerated but not legit online betting?
There’s a clear case of hypocrisy between how matka, which is essentially gambling, are being treated compared with how legitimate online betting platforms are being crucified by state governments as these sites allegedly promote the so-called “vice of gambling.”
The recent arrests of underground sports bookies also highlight the complex relationship between betting on sports and matka betting. It’s worth noting that the state of Goa considers satta matka activities illegal—much like the rest of the country—yet it still accounts for the highest frequency of all games played in the state with an estimated 40 percent of players opting to play the old-fashioned lottery by as much as three times per week.
There may have been one or two instances when arrests are made, but for all intents and purposes, the matka betting “industry” is thriving even amid the election season. In comparison, the thriving online gambling industry is being stigmatized as a promoter of vices, and it’s one which the state governments believe should be stopped at all costs—even going as far as violating the Constitution.
What the authorities fail to realize—or are turning a blind eye—is Indians love to gamble and they are moving online do to the activity they love. And right now, the licensed online betting operators are the only viable alternative to underground sportsbooks.
Compared to underground bookies, online betting platforms holding either offshore gambling licenses or locally regulated permits from jurisdictions with strict licensing procedures provide safe and secure services to Indian players given that these licenses put emphasis on consumer protection tailored to territorial and cultural specifics.
The bottom line is that India isn’t fully harnessing the opportunities brought by digital technologies, even though the government wants to brand itself as a digital-friendly country. ENV Media analysts summed up the state of sports betting in mobile-first India best when they said: “Due to legal controversy and unstable regulatory climate, betting in India is channelling a notoriously low share of its total player market towards legitimate and reputable platforms, even
with current online possibilities. In that context, offshore operators have taken the initiative to offer quality to what seems like an immense yet constantly expanding volume of online betting demand.”