An extremely common sight at RWITC is lots of people with mobiles on their ears asking,”Kya Bhav?” So what are these guys doing? Well the answer is simple, they’re betting with an illegal bookie. Yes they’re breaking the law while we look the other way for a fee; the mobile charge.
The tax regime for betting in Maharashtra has created a system that costs every citizen of the state money. While a smaller place like Bangalore Turf Club gives the state exchequer well in excess of ₹ 100 Crore annually, the Maharashtra State Government gets under ₹ 20 Crore from RWITC in betting taxes. In other words the myopic policy of the Maharashtra Government has caused a multi thousand Crore loss to the state over the years.
There is empirical data available worldwide and in India that a lower and sensible tax regime creates an exponentially higher turnover and as a result the government takes in a much higher revenue due to higher volumes of legally placed bets. Not only that, the bookmaker especially the illegal bookmaker has no skin in the game. The Turf Club on its part gets a percentage of the betting turnover to finance the entire process of the sport of horse racing. Out of their take, the club has to dole out stake money, pay their salaries, maintain their facility as well as pay for promotion and expansion. So everytime an illegal bet gets placed everybody loses including the idiot on the phone. Since, as a result of rampant illegal betting and a one way income flow in the favour of the bookie with little or no cost, the power of dosh leads these cretins to fix and manipulate things to suit themselves even more.
The Maharashtra Government on its part is letting every single citizen of their state get robbed. When cheating in alcohol excise takes place, hooch dealers find themselves in the clink when they get caught, policing of the same is strict too. Money earned the right way by the government on tote betting could help finance a myriad of welfare schemes. The worldwide standard for takeouts from betting pools is somewhere in the region of 20% with the government and racing facility getting an even split. Here, RWITC is left with very little wriggle room as the government wallops 20% straight up. Totalizator pools are never static they either spiral upwards or as is the case with an asinine tax regime downwards. As the vicious cycle continues the sport dies, the Club can ill afford to pay better stakes as a result owners have a lower probability of return on investment from earnings. Trainers and jockeys get lower commissions trying to do things the right way and as a result must resort to gambling and the resultant malpractice that goes along with it therefore the rot runs right through.
Tote only monopolies are the modern way to run the sport of racing. The Brits left us a great sport but they also left us their 18th Century business strategy to run the sport, clubs like BTC and HRC were able to adapt but would do well to go the whole hog to ban bookies altogether. Unfortunately RWITC with their tax regime need the income that they get in stall fees from their on course bookmakers to keep afloat despite the fact that they cheat on revenue declaration right under their noses. The leading bookmaker by turnover for the whole season, yes the whole season from November to April declares a lower turnover than a single race run at Bangalore and we honour the guy with a prize at season’s end, guess he steals marginally less than the other curs in his business. How does one become a bookie? It’s simple, the club licenses you. You’d think you ought to have some proper way to license those who are handling such large sums of money, like stockbrokers are but here you get guys with with names like Xyzji and Abcbhai depending on which part of India one is in with no real qualification in money or gaming management.
It’s about time the Government of Maharashtra instead of having a negative attitude towards the sport understand that it’s a business that creates thousands of permanent jobs. Most of these jobs are for those who their broken state education system has let down, the labourer. Horse racing is a labour intensive sport, just see one of Pesi Shroff’s leading in pictures and see how many of his staff are in them. Each and everyone of those men have an integral role to play in the running of the stable; the jamadar, the riding boy, the farrier, the feedman, the syce, the faltoo, the assistant and so on. Most of them don’t have formal education but are vocational experts in their fields. Our sport was mandated as a game of skill by the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement in 1996 by The Hon. Justice Kuldip Singh. That puts us on par with cricket, hockey, football, kho kho etc. so understand that we are in a game where gambling is allowed and legally so. In other words screw you and your pseudo moralistic attitude that my sport must be looked down upon. I’m proud to be part of a great sport and yes my family is in politics and we find that we have nothing to hide as far as our involvement in the sport goes, in fact its an integral part of our identity in fact we wear it on our sleeves.
Its a no brainer Maharashtra Government follow Hong Kong’s example come up with a sensible betting tax rate and structure and use the money to repair your potholed roads, your broken education system, your dilapidated infrastructure, your overstretched local rail and bus network. We’re a green non polluting industry, the process provides lots of jobs, a lot more than your subsidised Cricket stadiums do and most of all its fun! Wake up and smell the fresh air around Mahalakshmi racecourse!
Next time you’re trying to save a few betting points by betting tax free with an illegal bookie just remember you’re bringing yourself down to the same level as a petty pick pocketing thief, you just stole from that jockey, that trainer, that owner and the club its as simple as that you thief!