Is Goa slowly emerging as a favourite destination for small-time Indian Premier League bookies? Monday marked the fifth crackdown on such betting rackets operating in the State ever since the 13th edition of the 'high stakes' league kicked-off in UAE on September 19. The earlier three raids were conducted along the Calangute coastal belt, while another one was in Morjim. The men in khaki, who usually faced flak over law and order and increasing crime, have been right on the money in tracking down IPL bookies, and this could be the only positive.
The IPL, which has a mix of entertainment, glamour and money, has a huge fan following, especially in India, because people have an altogether different passion for the shorter format. Away from the glitz and glamour that this tournament brings, it has a dark underbelly with betting syndicates and cartels churning out crores of rupees in bets over every ball that is bowled and every run scored. Across the nation, raids have happened in Bengaluru, a metro seen as an epicentre, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Last year, a betting racket even operated from inside a luxury car at Jalna in Maharashtra.
A distinct thread in all the Goa raids is that all bookies operating are non-Goans. The bookies hail from different parts of the country. The Sunday's Calangute raid revealed that out of the five arrested, three were from Indore-Madhya Pradesh, one from Mumbai and the fifth from Nepal. In the previous raids too, those involved were from Rajasthan and Hyderabad.
The busting of these betting syndicates have made national and even international headlines. This is a disturbing trend for a State which in recent times is gaining popularity for wrong reasons. The flurry of raids only goes to suggest that Goa is fast becoming a perfect destination for anti-social elements and rogue tourists to carry out illegal activities clandestinely. The Taleigao case revealed that four persons from Chhattisgarh were taking bets from clients in their home State, and they preferred to do this from Goa. There are reasons to worry because checks and balances on the kind of tourists we are hosting are failing.
While due credit needs to be given for the police intelligence and their network for cracking IPL betting groups, it's a sad irony that the very same police force is turning a blind eye to matka betting counters stationed in every nook and corner of villages and cities. The IPL betting groups are not primarily targeting Goan clients, but matka is. If there is a crackdown needed, it is against matka because this form of gambling affects the Goan common man. In Covid times, when people don't have cash in hand, matka could take citizens further down the road to distress. Sadly, successive governments and police heads have failed to crack the whip against this form of gambling which is happening right in front of their eyes.