In the insular media world of Mumbai where everything revolves Gaan-Party, plastic bans and the power of Bollywood, where Bollywood stars and starlets who sell their asses for two lakhs a night or a few grams of cocaine are feted the current flava' is a bar girl who goes by the name Tarannum. Now, Tarannum was a dancer at the Deepa Bar in Vile Parle and was supposedly loved by the patrons, I have no clue how she looks because ironically the only picture of her printed by the papers showed her in - wait for this - a burkha.
Great, she had no qualms about selling her ass at a dance bar every night, but put a case against her and she rediscovers religion. Kinda like Sallu Khan putting on a skullcap when he went to the lock-up after killing those guys sleeping on the pavement in Bandra, wonder where that religion went when he got drunk and called up Ms Ash.
Anyway, this Tarannum had a lot of fans, therefore I assume she must have been damn hot (and also a Bangladeshi, as I now learn) and was very close to lot of Cricket bookies, including some guy called Digjam (after the suitings brand?) who not only introduced her to a top-flight Sri Lankan spinner (I thought Sri Lanka only has ONE top-flight spinner) and other pals of his. Digjam used to hang around B and C grade Bollywood actresses a lot and obviously made a lot of money to buy them the good life (and bang them every night). Hmmm, the plot thickens.
Now, Digjam promised Tarannum huge returns in her investments if she invested in Cricket betting. So since she started betting in 1997, she made a lot of money, a lot. When the IT department raided her house they found - a lot of cars, a lot of cash (30 lakhs or something), a lot of jewellery (another 50 lakhs worth), a lot of property deeds, etc etc. Now, crime reporters are having a field day - they are spouting numbers that they make up in their heads -a recent Aaj Tak (I think) report said the market is worth some Rs 5000 crore, another channel had the number of Rs 10000 crore. And thats in Greater Bombay alone.
Whatever the number, it will be huge. I won't hazard a guess, OK, lets see, I would say, since we are virtually a one sport country, the number is between to Rs 25,000 - 50,000 crore annually all over India. I've made money on stupid bets with friends, but I know of people who bet hardcore - tens of thousands of rupees on whether Sachin scores a century or if Pathan takes three wickets. The same stuff ESPNStar runs as silly SMS contests, people bet big money on.
And even if there is the occasional raid here or there, one in Delhi, one in Mumbai, one in obscure UP town etc, it won't stop the betting. Because Indians love betting, they love the lottery, they love it. If you've spent a Diwali in Delhi gambling away all your money on teen-patti you know what I mean. By the way, last year, I actually made money on Diwali gambling - Rs 2500 - I only play Rs 5/10 chaal. And despite my strong middle-class Bengali upbringing, I still love gambling, not so much for the money, but its part and parcel of the South Delhi environment I've been brought up in. And it isn't just the guys, the most intense gamblers during the festive season are the girls and because the guys can't keep a straight face when they good cards the girls usually end up winning a lot - you can abuse them, you can make fun of them and you'll surely outdrink them boys - but the girls just keep on taking your moolah.
The point being - we all desis - OK, I won't stereotye us, (South Indians, or at least the ones I know aren't usually the betting types, most of them get roasted during Diwali) but on the whole we like all this stuff.
So why is it illegal?
Just like its absurd that we don't celebrate Independence Day with a bout of heavy drinking, its mad that we have not legalised gambling. Talk to the Government, or anyone in the government about this over an evening drink and you'll get the following response, "Then we should also legalise prostitution according to you, young man." Well, actually I think that legalising the sex trade would go miles in stopping the trade in young girls and controlling the bubbling AIDS volcano that we are sitting on, legalising gambling could have the following effects :-
Getting in a lot of revenue
Curbing the flow of money into the black economy
Controlling the mafia - as a lot of this money goes into anti-India activities by Dawood and his ilk
Making the public less cynical ("this match was fixed") whenever we do lose a match and actually blame the players
And promoting a lot of new sports
Um, I don't know if all this makes sense, but I think it does. But, I doubt anything will happen anytime soon after all the government is more concerned about Tarannum, as are the Bombay papers.