An Odds Thing to Happen

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NEW DELHI ~ Once upon a time there was something called a dabba in Gurgaon. This was a facility a bettor could purchase from a bookie at a cost of Rs 4,000 a month. The dabba came with a dedicated phone line. Put on speaker mode, it transformed into a live radio in which a man blurted out in thick Jat accent: “Ball chaaloo hone wala hai ab…India par doh ka paanch… (The match’s about to start... 2/5 on India)”. You could hear live cricket commentary with current betting rates on it. Many bettors would share one dabba and place bets through a separate phone number of the bookie. In the IPL final of 2012, the dabba told the gamblers that the odds were Rs 1.22 for KKR and 83 paise for CSK. That meant that if a person bet on CSK and it won, he got 83 paise for every rupee. The dabba, alas, is now no more, thanks to the recent spot-fixing arrests.

“After the Sreesanth scandal, the dabba has suddenly gone silent,” says an infotech professional in Gurgaon who loves to punt. There is an atmosphere of fear and the usual systems have disappeared. He wanted to bet during the match between India and Pakistan in the current ICC Champions Trophy, but could not locate his usual betting sources. Mobile phones have been switched off and numbers changed. “Some [bookies] were arrested after the Sreesanth case. The rest have downed their shutters and disappeared. My friends who love to wage bets are taking it easy till the crisis passes,” he says.

A bookie, who also runs an underground poker club in New Delhi, says that both his cricket-betting and poker businesses have gone down. “IPL6 was a dream run. After the scandal, people are just scared. It’s not that they have gone away, but it is very difficult to find a reliable bookie and place bets on a cricket match now. You can try online,” he says.

Meanwhile, traffic at Casino Royale in Goa has increased. “Before the scandal, we had only one poker table running. Now, there are at least three running every day. The weekends are even bigger,” says Dheeraj, a manager at the casino.