Casinos and Budget Deficit By Dr. Bobby Srinivasan and Dr. Sudhakar Balachandran

One of the major lessons from the epic Mahabarath is that gambling is a major sin and could destroy the family. It is generally believed that gambling will promote crooks and touts and could destroy the very fabric of the society. Regardless of this belief illegal betting flourishes in India whether it is off-track betting or a sports event like an IPL cricket match. Frankly no body knows the size and the volume of gambling, the number of participants etc and hence the size of operation is not easily evaluated.

The basic question to ask is whether any form of gambling should be legalized? Those who say no refuse to accept the reality that illegal gambling is here to stay and flourish. Those who say yes accept is of the view if you cannot change the gamblers just join them. Those countries that stood against gambling are now changing after realizing the potential of what it could do to an economy. Just recently Japan has approved gambling and expects 15 billion dollars worth of annual revenue. Singapore’s GDP has significantly improved because of gambling.

For India, it is not easy to sell the idea of legalized gambling. Currently our government is doing all it could do to bring down the budget deficit which is around 5.8 trillion rupees of the total annual budget of 16.6 trillion rupees. They are thinking of selling many public sector undertaking. In the past their efforts fell far short of the money they are supposed to have raised. They are also planning new form of taxes based upon consumption but it has not happened yet. Given the present situation, nothing drastic will happen in the near term. However, introducing legalized gambling is what Japan plans to do in the coming year. Singapore, Macau, Malaysia, UK, USA are already doing that. For example in UK, one can notice a special booth in the cricket ground purely for gambling. A bet for example is how many runs India will score in the first fifteen overs of a 50 over match say against England. If you bet a 10 pound that India will score between 54 and 59 runs and if you win (your odds are 1 to 70), you will take home 700 pounds. It is quite certain as more and more countries legalize betting (both of track and on track). India will decide to accept it.

Finally this blog should not be viewed as something controversial is thought of but instead as an effort to reduce the budget deficit which is one of the major cause of economic misery like higher inflation rate. We Indians already treat our environment like a casino only and poach animals and deforest. So we are not strong on moral grounds and should treat betting as an economic activity. One of the major issues in macro economics is to identify all economic activities in the country to be included in the calculation of a GDP. Many activities hitherto not considered should be included especially activities from the unorganized sector.

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