Actress Ritu Varma endorses banned betting app Lotus365

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Popular South Indian actress Ritu Varma has been posting Instagram reels promoting the banned online betting platform Lotus365. The app, known for its cricket betting offerings, was declared illegal in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in February 2023, citing concerns about money laundering, tax evasion, and potential addiction.

Varma’s endorsement, which features her using the app and encouraging viewers to “try their luck,” raises questions about the continued involvement of celebrities in promoting illegal activities. This incident comes on the heels of similar controversies involving the Mahadev app endorsed by other prominent figures like Ranbir Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Huma Qureshi, and Kajal Aggarwal among others. Even Lotus365 has been endorsed by Govinda, Sunil Shetty and Tejaswi Prakash.

Siri Hanumanthu Telugu Big Boss season 5 finalist had also endorsed this illegal gambling
platform while making claims that she bought a Ferrari with the prize money. Tollywood
actresses Nivetha Pethuraj also continue to promote Lotus365 on Instagram.

Launched in 2022, Lotus365 quickly gained popularity in India, particularly among cricket fans. However, its operations were deemed illegal due to its offshore nature and its potential to violate Indian laws governing online gambling. Despite the ban, the app continues to operate through proxy websites and mobile app stores, making it accessible to users determined to circumvent regulations.

After the ban, Lotus365 shifted its focus to social media platforms, collaborating with influencers, meme pages, and proxy accounts for its publicity. The use of celebrities to promote products and services is a common marketing strategy. However, when it comes to endorsing banned or illegal activities, celebrities risk not only damaging their reputation but also facing legal repercussions. The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, holds endorsers liable for misleading advertisements, and promoting illegal products or services could fall under this purview.

Though the celebrities and influencers endorsing the app are not directly violating any codified law, they violate the guidelines of the Central Government since the app is banned and any promotions of it are illegal.

The Ritu Varma incident stresses the need for stricter regulations and enforcement mechanisms to prevent celebrities from promoting illegal activities. Celebrities, for their part, must exercise greater caution and due diligence when choosing brands or products to endorse. Additionally, platforms like Instagram should have stricter policies in place to prevent the promotion of illegal activities on their platform.