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 a teenager during the 1947 partition. He is credited as the person who transformed Matka (a form of gambling in India that originated in Mumbai in 1962) into India's biggest betting racket and established a nation-wide gambling network that lasted for decades under his control until he retired and decided to relinquish his position.
Another key personality in the business during the time matka originated was "Kalyanji Bhagat." Bhagat is known to have actually initiated the earliest forms of this gambling which was further popularized by Khatri.
The Matka craze in Bombay in the 1970s and 1980s and also continued into the 90s until the police cracked down on it. Khatri is known as the kingpin of the Matka racket - and the public and media referred to him as the Matka King. The character of Premnath who enacted the title role in Bollywood filmmaker Feroz Khan's film Dharmatma (the first Indian adaptation of the film The Godfather was inspired from and loosely based on Ratan Khatri. Just as in the film, Ratan Khatri was known to come to the aid of all people. His beneficiaries included friends from the film industry and corporate world and distant relatives who needed any support or financial assistance. Although Khatri has long retired and does not operate the matka business any more, a number of bookies continue to falsely operate under his name of Ratan Matka. 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. (Citation- Mid-Day February 18, 2008 article referenced below - "Khatri’s betting was considered more genuine as the cards were reportedly opened in the presence of patrons." )
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.