By Akram Mohammed [ Published Date: April 23, 2012 ]
The Indian Premier League (IPL) gives a high-pitched fever to a nation obsessed with cricket. During that particular month when IPL fixtures are held, the greatest talking point for a country of 1.2 billion people is cricket. 'Greatest' in the sense that you get people discussing it everywhere. In buses, shops, streets, television, the Internet, here, there and almost everywhere.
There has been an issue of IPL that has evaded much-needed attention. It is betting. Betting is rampant everywhere in the country. From the cities to our villages, money changes hands and does a great deal of 'business'.
To a nation obsessed with liberalization and even talks on 'appropriately pricing water', it would be not that difficult to legalize betting. It would provide the much-needed revenue for our economy to diminish the fiscal deficit of our budget. But, that is a different perspective altogether.
Let us try and get acquainted with the working of betting. Can we determine which among the two teams is going to win? That calls for a lesson in probability.
Assume that you bet on every one of the 74 matches played in IPL 5. On an average, there are only 50% chances that the team you have predicted is going to win the match. That is, on an average 37 times you are right and win money, and 37 times you are wrong and lose money.
Then there are the odds that a bookie fixes on some teams depending on the current situation of the match. If you a predict that the 'strong' team is going to win, you tend to get less. If you predict that a 'weak' team is going to win, you get more.
When a match starts, odds are equal and tend to vary consistently throughout the match. That is, in a match between A and B, team say 'A' had scored only 120 runs. And then 'B' has a strong batting line-up. If you decide to bet after 'A' has finished its innings at 120, you get more returns if you predict correctly.
Assuming that the odds for team 'A' are at 20 paise per rupee, then if you bet 2000 rupees in favour of team 'A', you get returns of 10000 rupees. But, if 'A' loses, you lose only 2000. But, the seeming fairy tale of earning 10000 rupees for the loss of 2000, even makes people, who have only 2000, to lose everything.
As an advice, statistically speaking, it is impossible to predict anything that might turn out in the future. You can never predict which team is going to win. You can guess and hopefully you will get lucky. With variable odds, you tend to lose more than win more. Betting favours the bookie, the man who fixes the odds.
We definitely do not know that there is no profit for us in staring at the idiot box, hoping for a team to win. Some here bet to such lengths that they hope to get back home with some rice to cook, from the money they are going to win. Newbies in the betting arena enjoy the ubiquitous 'beginner's luck'. Later, after a few victories and severe losses in betting, they often do not recover.
In a casual conversation, a student of a prestigious Engineering college in our district said that the boys at their hostel had started pooling up their money, three or four months prior to IPL 5, in order to bet during the IPL season.
A few of the downtrodden members of our community also bet. That raises an interesting question. How does a person who does not have enough to support a family, who is often found drunk and lying on the streets, afford to bet?
A few of them raise a loan to bet. They loan in thousands in small villages, lakhs in some towns and maybe even crores in cities. One need not be an expert to understand that such steps are stepping-stones to bankruptcy.
Another aspect of betting is 'the addiction for betting'. I do not have any psychological evidence to justify my claim. Maybe, there is some evidence. But, what I have observed with people who bet on every match is that there is a sense of uneasiness when matches are not being played. They wait for matches to happen like farmers who await rain.
An interesting incident was during BPL, the Bangladesh Premier League. Most of the people did not know the name of the teams. How to bet if you do not even know the names? They started betting on teams batting first or teams batting second when they did not know their names. By doing that too, some won and a majority lost. Some managed to sustain themselves without considerable losses.
During some ICC tournament amidst teams like Afghanistan, Canada, Holland and the like betting was taking place too. How did they know the scores? How did they come to know that there was a match too?
A few have learned to access the web. And if there are four matches in a day, when you do not know who is playing? One guy bets on teams batting second with a few thousand for every match, while the other bets on teams batting first.
During the Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha bypoll too, a transaction of at least a few crore is believed to have taken place in and around the constituency, as people kept betting on who is going to win the election. Odds were against Yeddyurappa, as a few people decided to bet on whether he would be reinstated as CM or not. What more do we need?
Why betting is worrying is because, India has a lot of people below poverty line (BPL) and the people who are just managing to live in just a bit above poverty line and the ones in the middle class, who can bet and lose everything in a single match.
There should be a commission to research the degree of bankruptcy during IPL. It would be interesting to know whether the frequency of bankruptcy is more or less. I will be betting that it will be more.
It will be hard to curtail the epidemic of betting in India. But it will help if we know that it is an epidemic in India.