When it comes to what sports India loves the most, horse racing may not be the immediate answer but it is thriving in the country. Many Indians do enjoy great horse racing tournaments, especially in Mumbai and Pune. Insiders Sport reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge of interest in the sport that has been in India for over 200 years.
While the popularity of horse racing isn’t as huge as India’s most-loved sport which is cricket, the horse race betting industry is a hit in the country. Most popular legal India betting sites would offer odds on numerous racing events in the country like the Indian St. Leger, Indian Derby, and the Indian Oaks.
Why Do Indians Enjoy Horse Racing and Betting?
There are a few reasons why Indians enjoy this sport and bet on it. One is attributed to how it has been a sport that’s been played in the country for a long time. The Indian Derby is known as one of the oldest horse races outside Ireland and the UK where this sport is extremely popular.
Horse racing in India is believed to have started in the 18th century when it was brought ashore by the British Empire. It was in 1777 when the first race track was built in the country and it is located in Madras or more known as Chennai today.
The races became more popular in the 1940s as this was when the Indian Derby started. Since 1943, this has become a yearly tournament that eventually became quite lucrative. The 2021 Indian Derby’s prize pool was almost Rs 1.87 crore and it’s likely that next year, the pool will be bigger.
When it comes to India’s love for sports, it’s also usually partnered up with betting. India loves to gamble and when horse racing became common in the country, the betting industry has also been a success. You can tell that this activity is well accepted in the country just by knowing that it is legally practiced.
India’s Public Gambling Act of 1867 which is still the basis of regulating gambling activities in the country does prohibit gambling activities. However, in 1994, India’s Supreme Court has ruled that horse race betting is not a game based on the chance because bettors will have to be knowledgeable about the horses including their breed, training, and also the abilities of the jockey.
The Supreme Court found that it is an activity that is a game of skill and with that, horse race betting is completely legal in the country. Today, there are already several states that have statutes that specifically allow licensing bookmakers.
The Future of Horse Racing in India
With how the industry is doing, it looks like horse racing might even be a notorious sport in the country. This year, Sportradar sponsored a panel called “Horseracing- Leading The Way to Regulation” where there were speakers who talked about the said sports especially how the pandemic affected its popularity.
Jaydeep Chakravarty, the vice president – commercials at Markor Technology, said that it is a sport that has always been restricted to a certain group and that only people with a very strong interest in it would get involved. However, he said that he feels like the pandemic changed this.
Chakravarty said, “COVID-19 changed the game for horse racing in India, I feel. There has always been a gradual progression from being offline to online. Every industry is moving from offline to online in a very slow and gradual manner. COVID-19 – that’s a very big development that has taken place in India.”
North Alley director, Suresh Paladugu, agrees with Chakravarty’s sentiments and said, “Talking about modernization, as Jaydeep has rightly said, COVID has expedited what probably would have happened, two or three years down the line. Right now, we are in a position where systems are all unified to a certain extent, and we are in six of the seven race clubs in terms of technology standpoint, and working with the others as well.”
The speakers who attended the event also discussed that India has a huge potential for betting because of its large population. Chakravarty expounded on this and said, “Take as an example Calcutta, where I am presently, and just to give you an idea, although horse racing is restricted, or pending on horse racing, it is restricted only inside the turf club, the state alone has 100 million plus population.
“There is a market for that kind of a product. Like I said earlier, it was always restricted to a certain group, you can say only people with a very strong interest in horse racing would get involved. Now, by making this online, even if it means it’s online within the boundaries of Bengal, there is a 100 million population. I think that opens up the possibility of reaching out to a wider audience.”