Matka also Satta is essentially is a form of lottery which in its current form began in Mumbai in 1960s. It has been in existence since pre Indian independence era when it was known as Ankada Jugar a.k.a. Figures gambling. Kalyanji Bhagat and Rattan Khatri were the ones who pioneered and controlled the matka syndicate in Mumbai.
In 1962, Kalyanji Bhagat began the Worli matka. Rattan Khatri introduced the New Worli matka in 1964, with slight modifications to the rules of the game. Kalyanji Bhagat's matka ran for all days of the week, whereas Rattan Khatri’s matka ran only five days a week, from Monday to Friday.
The flourishing of textile mills in Mumbai, saw many mill workers getting attracted to matka which resulted in bookies opening their shops in and around the mill areas which were predominantly located in Central Mumbai. This resulted in Central Mumbai becoming the hub of the matka business in Mumbai.
The decades of 1980s and 1990s saw the matka business reach its peak. Betting volumes in excess of Rs. 500 crore would be laid every month. The Mumbai police’s massive crackdown on the matka dens forced dealers to shift their base to the city’s outskirts. Many of them moved to Gujarat, Rajasthan and other states. With no major source of betting in the city, the punters got attracted to other sources of gambling such as online and zhatpat lotteries. Meanwhile, the rich punters began to explore betting on cricket matches.
Till 1995, there were more than 2,000 big and medium-time bookies in the city and neighboring towns, but since then the numbers have declined substantially to less than 300. Off late, the average monthly turnover has remained around Rs. 100 crore.
Kalyanji Bhagat was born a farmer in the village of Ratadia, Ganesh Wala in Kutch, Gujarat. Kalyanji's family name was Gala and the name Bhagat, a modification of bhakt, was a title given to their family by the King of Kutch for their religiousness.
He arrived as a migrant in Bombay in 1941 and initially did odd jobs such as masala ferriwala (spice seller) to managing a grocery store. In the 1960s, when Kalyanji Bhagat was running a grocery shop in Worli, he pioneered matka gambling by accepting bets based on the opening and closing rates of cotton traded on the New York wholesale market. He used to operate from the compound of his building Vinod Mahal, in Worli.
After Kalyanji Bhagat, his son Suresh Bhagat managed the business along with his wife Jaya Bhagat who he married in 1979.
Suresh Bhagat murder conspiracy
On June 11, 2008, a truck rammed into a Mahindra Scorpio in which Suresh Bhagat and six others, including his lawyer and bodyguards were travelling, killing all of them. They were returning from an Alibaug court, where the hearing of a 1998 narcotics case had been held. During investigations by the police it was revealed that Hitesh Bhagat (Suresh Bhagat's son) and his mother Jaya Bhagat had hatched the plot to kill Suresh Bhagat. Hitesh and nine others, including Jaya, were arrested and were tried under the stringent act of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and subsequently convicted.
Rattan Khatri, known as the Matka King, from the early 1960s to mid-1990s controlled a nationwide illegal gambling network with international connections which involved several lakh punters and dealt with crores of rupess.
Khatri's matka started in the bustling business area of Dhanji Street in Mumbadevi where idlers used to wager on the daily trickle of the fluctuating cotton rates from the New York market. Gradually, it became a big gambling hub as the quantum of bets and betters increased. Due to a row over a winning number plus the New York market’s five-day week schedule, compulsive betters began looking for alternatives. Based on the requests of his friends, Khatri started his own syndicate and started drawing three cards to decide the day’s number. Khatri's betting was considered more genuine as the cards were reportedly opened in the presence of the patron. During the emergency in India, Khatri was jailed and served 19 months behind bars. He has retired from the gambling business and lives near Tardeo; however, he still does visit the Mahalaxmi Racecourse to bet on his favorite horses.
In the beginning, betting would take place on the opening and closing rates of cotton transmitted to the Bombay Cotton Exchange which was then located at in Sewree by the New York Cotton Exchange via tele-printers. But in 1961, the New York Cotton Exchange stopped the practice, which caused the punters to look for alternative ways to keep the matka business alive.
Khatri floated a novel idea of declaring opening and closing rates of imaginary products. Numbers would be written in pieces of paper and put in a big pitcher (matka).
One person would then draw a chit and declare the winning numbers. Over the years, the practice changed — three numbers were drawn from a pack of playing cards. But the name matka got stuck to gambling.
Influences in Bollywood
The matka business and the lives of the matka kings also had an influence on Bollywood. The character of Prem Nath who enacted the title role in Bollywood filmmaker Feroz Khan's film Dharmatma was based on Rattan Khatri who also provided the basic logistics for the script and dialogues written by Kaushal Bharati.
Current matka business
The current matka business is centered around Ahmedabad and the main matka bazaars are Milan, Kalyan, Main, Star and Super that are operated from the Gujarat based cities.
- "Mid-Day Report History of Matka".
- "Mid-Day article - History of cricket betting in Mumbai".
- "DNA India – How Matka Business Started".
- "DNA India – Suresh Bhagat's brother vows to take over matka business".
- "It’s the Bhagats, you bet".
- "Times of India article - Hitesh Bhagat Death".
- "Feroze Khans' Dharmatma (1975) based on Rattan Khatri".