Wednesday , 12 August 2020
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Why Matka Gambling Goes On Unchecked

AFTER a hue and cry over the increase in matka or satta gambling in the state, the crime branch, which is probing the alleged nexus of policemen, politicians and matka operators, has decided to recommend amendment to the Goa Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976 to include matka as a gambling offence. The absence of matka in the Act was being used as a ‘loophole’ and people booked for matka gambling were getting acquitted. It is surprising that though matka gambling has been going on for more than half a century, the police felt the need for amendment only now. The ‘loophole’ would have been allowed to continue had it not been for the directions of the Bombay High Court to the state crime branch to carry out a thorough probe into the alleged nexus between police, politicians and matka operators based on a public interest litigation.
It is common knowledge that despite occasional raids, that too on small-time bookies, matka has been flourishing in every nook and corner of the state. Matka operators and bookies have been using newer modus operandi to carry on with their illegal activities. Gone are the days when bookies were found operating round street corners with a table and a stool or at shady places. To give a respectable look to their business, matka agents have upgraded and made fashionable the shops or stalls from where they operate; they sell various fast moving consumer goods in those stores and stalls to cover their illegal activities. Matka bets are also placed on dedicated matka sites. The police conduct raids only when the media exposes the inaction of the state law enforcing authorities on the illegal activities; after a couple of days the business is resumed unhindered till the next expose. This can be described as a game of hide and seek being played between the police and the matka operators. It is surprising to note that when matka business fetches lakhs of rupees in bets every day the seizure in most cases of raids on matka bookies is limited to a few thousands of rupees, sometimes to a few hundreds. This raises questions about whether there are men in the police force who tip off the bookies about the raids on their premises or whether the police allow the bookies to ‘hide’ the amount.
Though the existence and operations of big-time matka operators in the state are known to the law enforcing authorities, they have failed to lay their hands on any one of them, either because they have protection from powerful politicians or they have colluding elements in the police force. Despite the fact that more than a year has passed since the investigations began in the matka gambling case nothing appears to have moved in containing the increasing numbers of matka or satta gambling, except the police belatedly realising that one of the common reasons for large number of people being acquitted was due to matka not being defined as gambling and plug the widely used lacunae. The slow pace of investigations and flourishing of the matka business have made people wonder whether the case would be taken to logical end. Besides, given the fact that a large number of clients of the matka bookies are policemen themselves, it is unlikely that any serious attempt would be made to end the illegal business. Forget big-time bookies, the police have not been able to arrest even small-time bookies, some of whom operate within a few hundred metres from the police headquarters and police stations.
Though the police will seek amendment to the Goa Gambling Act, it is unlikely that the change in law would come any time soon in view of the tenure of the Assembly coming to an end. Matka business runs into thousands of crores of rupees annually with big-time players involved in it, so the government would have to show extraordinary zeal to end it. With the elections approaching there is possibility of the state authorities deferring a decision which would affect a large number of people who are dependent for their income from the illegal business either as bookies or gamblers. The state police attempts to block the matka sites have failed as the competent central authorities have sought court directions to close them. If the government is really serious in curbing illegal matka gambling it can issue ordinance to make the amendment to the gambling law so that it could be immediately enforced and the loophole used by unscrupulous persons could be plugged and escaped route blocked.

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