This Interview with Jay Sayta, who is now a full fledged lawyer running a practice focused on gaming laws after a stint with Luthra and Luthra, was originally published when he was still a law student at National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata as a 4th year law student, in A First Taste of Law which has since been shut down. We are republishing this valuable article for other law students to take a cue from. Back to 2012.
In my mind, Jay Sayta is a wonderkid. In his first year he started a website on Gambling Laws, which went on to become a phenomenon in the legal gambling industry in India – which was earlier connected by a group of closely networked professionals and owners. For the first time, the law was being written in language that everyone could understand, and there were people to answer questions on what is legal and what is not. The quality of his writing and analysis was astonishing even when he was in his first year in law school – and he has went on to become an expert often quoted by media on Gambling Law related issues. How did all these happen? Get to know the story from Jay himself.
Please introduce yourself and GLaws for our readers.
A I am a fourth year law student at NUJS Kolkata and I started GLaws in October 2010. GLaws is India’s first and only website monitoring developments in the gaming industry and gaming laws. We will endeavour to urge for reforms in the archaic gaming laws and a better regulatory environment is in everyone’s interest.
What do you consider to be the biggest success stories about GLaws?
I have been in touch with various top people in the gaming industry, lawyers, journalists, academicians etc. At least a dozen law firms have approached me to share my views on the subject. Hundreds of readers have written to me giving their positive feedback and endorsing my opinions and views. This has given me the enthusiasm and kept me going. It is the constant encouragement of the thousands of readers, friends and the legal fraternity that keeps me going.
How did you come across the idea of working on gambling laws? Why such an unusual choice?
I was curious about the status of gambling in India in my first year and I thought I should write a law journal article about it. I wrote something and approached some seniors to review it.
And that’s when you approached me (Ramanuj) and Abhyudaya. We found it very unusual for a first year student to come and ask for help on such a subject – and very happy to pitch in.
Yes, I wanted to know how to research and write on the subject. You encouraged me to start my website rather than just write an article and later you and Abhyudaya constantly helped and encouraged me. This is what kept me going. Again I was also interested in writing and I had reasonable skills in writing and research ever since my school days. As the blog kept evolving, many people kept contacting me with questions and praises – which was wonderful and encouraged me to keep up the regular research and writing.
I also find this a very unique practice area which is well developed abroad and expect it to be a separate practice area in India in the years to come. Many foreign law firms specially American, Canadian and British ones are specialized in gaming laws; Indian law firms are short-sighted in their approach and don’t realize the potential of this area in the coming years once the regulatory environment changes. And the regulatory environment is certain to change in the next few years and I personally would see this as an opportunity to develop skills in this area.
Do you generate any revenue from the blog? How?
I have not focused on this aspect- and hence there has not been any significant revenue generated so far. My aim is to create a brand and be a good resource for the general public and legal fraternity. I will explore the option fully later if necessary. Still, if you are a law student starting a blog – keep the revenue issue on mind. Potential areas are banner ads, google ads, and consultancy offers that come if you write a good blog.
How often are you approached by the media about gambling law related news?
Various top media houses have asked me about my views on the subject and have formed their opinion/editorial position based on my comments. Times of India and Mint have cited me as an expert. I hope the issue of gambling law reforms is covered more often in the media. The recent betting and fixing IPL scandal should be used as an opportunity to convince lawmakers to reform gaming laws.
How did you become an expert at such an unusual subject which is not taught anywhere?
As I started writing, people accepted my position, though I must admit I am no expert in the subject and no one has really persisted and done in-depth research on gambling laws. Hence by default, people treat me as someone who has knowledge in this area.
You are right, there is no such subject as gaming laws in Indian law schools, but parts of it are taught in some sports law or criminal law courses. I hope in future there is a separate course on Gaming laws or at least is clubbed with Sports or Media/Entertainment law subjects.
Are there any good books on gambling law?
In India there have been a couple of commentaries on lottery and gambling laws but they are very old and do not cover the new challenges and developments in this sphere. Justice Mukul Mudgal’s recent commentary on Sports Law has a chapter on Sports Betting laws. There are various foreign commentaries on the subject but the Indian law is different and thus they are not very helpful.
What about career prospects in gambling law for law students?
Gaming law is an exciting and interesting field and dozens of law firms have done work in this area. Today mainly it is about whether a game contains elements of skill, criminal liability for certain types of gaming and betting, structuring games, advising casinos and online gaming websites, studying the regulatory and policy framework, comparative analysis and academic research.
These days many law students are starting hundreds of blogs, most do not come across any significant success? What will you say is the reason your blog became such a hit?
I think the most important thing is to keep following the developments and write on a consistent basis after adequate research. Even though initially your writings may not attract much attention, it is only if you do persistent research and form reasoned opinions that you are going to be noticed. Also my advice is that you must start your own website only if you are passionate about the subject and if you have a flair for journalism or can write well.
Again it is necessary to meet people associated with your subject, interact with them and follow developments.
How do you keep yourself updated with industry news? How do you go about your research?
A Just as one does normal research- that is reading news, journals, case laws, books, industry-related websites and interacting with people associated with the industry for their insights. I do not hesitate to get in touch with people who would have information.
How did you build relationships within Indian casino and legal gambling industry? When and how did you start networking with the industry people?
I have tried to interact with people associated with the gaming industry including well-placed lawyers. Many of them have contacted me and I have remained in touch and interacted with them for their insights and updates.
What do you want to do after graduating? What are your future plans with GLaws?
I have not yet decided my plans after graduation, but gaming law is certainly one area which I would like to work on in future. I would continue writing on GLaws and researching on the subject as long as it possible given my constraints and I will devote sufficient time to ensure that I disseminate knowledge in this area.
Do you think there is any possibility of certain kind of gambling or casinos becoming legal in India?
A Sikkim and Goa are two states where casinos are legal. Daman is another state where casinos will come up this year. There are proposal for casinos in Maharashtra, Punjab and some other states- hopefully there will be political will to take the important decision of legalising gambling. FICCI and other organizations are also leading from the front to push the government to legalise betting, lotteries are already legal; an important matters are pending in various courts on games of skill- so this is an area to watch out for in the future.
Would you say that lawyers are taking an important lead in the legal gambling industry in India?
I don’t think enough is being done by lawyers though for important policy making there has to be enough political will. There is not much awareness even amongst the legal fraternity about gaming laws and top lawyers are blissfully unaware even about the basic Acts governing gambling in India; so there has to be more discourse and academic writing on this subject.
What are your thoughts on the recent incidents of spot fixing in Cricket?
As a cricket lover and someone who follows gaming laws, I was deeply saddened by the scandal but not at all shocked. There has been anecdotal evidence to suggest that most International and IPL matches in recent times might be fixed and I would even go to the extent of saying that most prominent cricketers are involved in this rot.
Stronger laws, awareness, accountable and efficient sports federations and reforms in betting laws are required to curb this malaise. Cheating in sport can be made an offence in the betting act itself or through a separate law. Legalising betting may also help to solve the disease to some extent as there would be transparency in betting patterns and those sportspersons, administrators or others indulging in betting in suspicious circumstances or winning consistently despite huge odds could be investigated easily.