Ratan Khatri is the person who initiated Matka, a form of gambling in India that originated in Mumbai(Bombay, India). Matka started around the same time as the closure of the cotton exchange figures of opening and closing that used to be transmitted to India and was gambled on. Ratan Khatri is considered by many to be the pioneer of the gambling/betting movement in India. Khatri, who hails from a Sindhi family, started from humble beginnings and like most Hindu Sindhis living in India, he came to Mumbai from Karachi, Pakistan when he was only a teenager during the 1947 partition.
The Matka craze swept Bombay in the 1970s and 1980s and also continued into the 90s until the police cracked down on it. Khatri is known to be the founder and kingpin of the Matka racket – and the public and media referred to him as the Matka King. The character of the protagonist in Bollywood filmmaker Feroz Khan’s film Dharmatma (the first Indian adaption of the film The Godfather) was based on Ratan Khatri. Just as in the the film, Ratan Khatri was known to come to the aid of all people including friends from the film industry and corporate world and distant relatives who needed any support or financial assistance. Although Khatri does not operate the matka business anymore, there are a number of bookies in Mumbai that continue to falsely operate under his name. This is probably because Khatri was known to be the most high-profile, honest and reputable player in this business that had astounding odds. Khatri made it customary to ask any member of the public to pull out the three cards on the dot of the appointed hours. Each pack was used only once and discarded. The three pulled out cards would remain with him after he scratched the printed side with his finger nails as proof.
Due to his ties with prominent businesspersons as well as illustrious personalities from Bombay’s film industry, many of whom were ardent Matka players, Khatri is also said to have also ventured into Bollywood financing for some time. One of the films produced by Khatri is Rangila Ratan which he co-produced with Ramchandra Bhikubhai. His association with films did not end there as his two sons continued to operate in the film business and own a film theatre in Amravati, Maharashtra.^(From Matka King to anonymous punter..(article in The Indian Express Nov 2007)
Khatri was adored by the masses in Mumbai, who easily made profits by spending as little as five rupees on Matka gambling. In a time of political disarray during the emergency announced by Indira Gandhi, Ratan Khatri was arrested for 19 months. Following his arrest, and as a result of extreme public resentment towards Indira Gandhi, there were chants by the disillusioned Indian masses that Ratan Khatri should become prime minister instead of Indira Gandhi – the slogan(a reference to Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao campaign) went “Indira Gandhi ko hatao, Ratan Khatri ko prime minister banao“.
Ratan Khatri has always been known to lead a simple and austere life and was always seen in his trademark kurta pyjama and a muffler tied around his head even while conducting his business. He has now given up Matka since more than a decade but continues to live in Mumbai, India.
The way this system operated was very simple. Mr. Khatri, who ran his empire directly from his South Bombay apartment near Tardeo, would draw three cards daily at 9:00pm and the face value of the cards would be totalled up. Often, Khatri would be ‘requested’ by his prominent acquaintances to draw the opening cards at another location, in the presence of celebrities/politicians etc. Within few minutes, Khatri’s matka numbers would be transmitted all across the country and even as far as places in London, Dubai and Iran, thus proving the power and extensive reach of his network and making it an international business.
To understand more about the workings of the game, lets say that, for example if the three cards were the Ace of Spades, five of hearts and 9 of clubs. The opening number would be a sum of the three cards 1+5+9 = 15 The opening number would be 5 and the display on the walls of selected sites would show a “matka” or pot with the following legend
If 2, 3 and 4 was the next three cards drawn at 12 midnight,the final display a few minutes after mid night would be 159 5×9 234
Betting takes place or used to take place on all the numbers, i.e. 159 or 234 or 59 or even 5 or 9 or all of them. For a 25 paise bet the returns were Rs 2.25.
The bookies all across Mumbai operated on kind of franchise. If the betting was heavy on a particuar number and the punters won, bookies were known to have disappeared overnight.