India: Central government orders blocking of 22 illegal betting websites

The Indian government has issued blocking orders against 22 illegal betting platforms, at the request of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), an official statement said on Sunday. Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar alleged the Chhattisgarh government did not send any request to block these platforms despite having the powers to do so. 

News agency Press Trust of India (PTI) cited the government’s official statement which said: “Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued blocking orders against 22 illegal betting apps and websites, including Mahadev Book and Reddyannaprestopro.”

The development comes after investigations were conducted by the ED against an illegal betting app syndicate and subsequent raids on Mahadev Book in Chhattisgarh, revealing the app’s unlawful operations, the statement further noted.

Chandrasekhar said: “Chhattisgarh Government had all the power to recommend shutting down of website/app under Sec 69A IT Act. However, they did not do so and no such request is made by the State Government while they have been investigating it for the last 1.5 years. In fact, the first and only request has been received from ED and it has been acted upon. Nothing prevented the Chhattisgarh Government from making similar requests.”

Accused Bhim Singh Yadav, working as a Constable in the Chhattisgarh Police force and one Asim Das are currently in custody, having been arrested under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for the commission of the offense of Money laundering u/s 3, punishable u/s 4 of PMLA, 2002,” the government release noted.

Illegal betting sites banned ahead of state assembly elections 

The investigation comes ahead of the 2023 Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly election, which is scheduled to be held in two terms on 7th November and 17th November to elect all 90 members of the state’s Legislative Assembly.

Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister (CM) Bhupesh Baghel, who belongs to the Congress party, on Sunday claimed that there is a secret understanding between the Government of India and the Mahadev betting app. Baghel asked why the Centre did not ban the app until now.

Pointing out that the public does not trust the opposing party in the state, BJP, ahead of the upcoming elections in the state, Baghel said: “Chhattisgarh Police have arrested 450 people in this case. They (BJP) have nothing to do right now. They have nothing against me. This is why they have resorted to these tactics.”

Earlier on Friday, the ED said that according to fresh evidence following a search operation on November 2nd, it was found that regular payments have been made in the past, and so far, around Rs 508 crore ($61,028,630) has been paid by Mahadev App Promoters to CM Baghel.

However, Baghel has refuted the ED’s claim and said that the BJP wants to contest the upcoming Chhattisgarh polls with the help of its agencies.

The ED is investigating the Mahadev Book Online Betting App syndicate and the promoters of this betting syndicate. As per the ED, cash courier Asim Das was intercepted by the central agency, which was sent from the UAE to deliver a large amount of cash for the electioneering expenses of the ruling Congress party in the state.