While global sports events are beginning to emerge after months of inactivity caused by the coronavirus and resulting lockdowns, India's sporting emergence is yet to take off.
In response, illicit bookmakers have turned their attentions to coronavirus. So-called 'satta bazaar' betting in Delhi is concerned with predictions on statistics related to coronavirus.
In an extraordinary article published by The Hindustan Times, several illegal bookmakers detailed how they were now taking bets on stats and data from the pandemic, including the infection rate, and the death toll.
"Initially, when the virus was still new, bets were being placed on when it would be eradicated. Then, money was being placed on lockdown dates, which had a longer validity. Daily bets also included the infection and death counts in different cities," said one 38-year-old bookie on condition of anonymity.
Under the nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25, large gatherings, including social, political, religious, and sporting events were banned.
During the first phase of the lockdown, people were betting on when restrictions would be lifted.
"The validity of the bet on lockdown dates was usually set a day before the government announcement was expected. Those who bet for Corona, which means lockdown extending, won a good sum of money," the bookie quoted above added.
To seal transactions, most bookies are using code words such as 'India jeetega', 'un-India' or 'Dilli mein corona'. "If the odds are in favour of corona, it means you are betting that cases will rise or the lockdown will continue. In the context of Delhi, at present, the odds are in favour of corona, which means cases will rise as compared to the previous day," a second unnamed bookie said.
An east Delhi-based bookmaker said that the interest in placing bets on the Covid-19 situation in India was primarily because of the ease with which predictions can be made on the statistics and because of the suspension of sporting events.
He added that since the first phase of the lockdown coincided with IPL, gamblers found the Covid-19 statistics to put their money on.
"Operating has become considerably easy these days because it seems like the police are busy with the management of Covid-19. But you never take it easy in this field, because you can get busted anytime," the oddsmaker said.
Delhi Police commissioner SN Shrivastava said that even though police are busy, the force were keeping a watch on such illegal networks.
"We do not know how the nature of betting has exactly changed after the pandemic, but the Delhi Police are showing no laxity in cracking down on any crime network. Our teams are monitoring all cyber operations to check for any illegal activity. Yes, our men are getting infected because of the kind of work we do, but they are also recovering at a fast rate and we are taking all the care that policing in the city does not suffer in any sense," Shrivastava said.
Police in Goa recently arrested eight in a raid on a suspected online gambling den, proving illegal bookmakers must keep an eye open for the police.
According to Doha-based International Centre for Sports Security, the illegal betting market in India $150 billion, which includes $200 million bet on each one day international played by the Indian cricket team. Officials estimate that everyday transactions worth ₹12-15 Crores are made in Delhi on illegal bets.