Bangladesh: CID investigating television channel ‘T Sports’ for airing sports betting platform ads

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Bangladesh police’s Criminal Investigation Department is closely examining several advertisements of various online betting and gambling sites run by a private sports channel and foreign-operated sports websites.

The Bashundhara Group-owned private television channel T Sports often aired commercials of the sports betting website 1xBet throughout the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the home cricket series against India.

According to CID officials, Bangladesh has banned and blacklisted the Cyprus-based internet gambling service, 1xBet. Muhammad Rezaul Masud, a special police superintendent with CID’s Cyber Crime Command and Control Centre, stated that they were aware of sports betting and online gambling through 1xBet.

The CID officer claimed that administrators and representatives of the online gambling and betting platform have previously been subjected to legal action.

“We have noticed that the online betting and gambling platform’s advertisements were broadcast on T Sports during the World Cup matches. We are monitoring and analysing the development. Action would be taken if a breach of the gambling-related laws were found,” said Rezaul according to New Age Bangladesh.

Ishtiaque Sadeque, the chief executive officer of T Sports, asserted that they are not guilty of any wrongdoing because their advertiser, 1xBet Sporting Line, specializes in the sale of sports apparel.

“Our advertiser is not involved in betting or gambling. Many people mixed it up mistakenly. The firm’s advertisements are also broadcast on other international sports-based channels such as Sony Sports Network,” claimed Sadeque.

During major sporting events when there is a slight lag between live play and official broadcasts, bookmakers openly take advantage of it. Advertisements for various online gambling platforms have been running on well-known sports websites including ESPN and ESPNcricinfo. The use of Bengali in the adverts made it apparent that Bangladeshis were the intended demographic for the advertisements.

According to a Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) officer, they block gambling websites based on their own surveillance and the findings of other governmental authorities.

A senior BTRC official said, “Those are absolutely gambling sites. We don’t have a mechanism developed to restrict gambling advertisements on other sites.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Shakib Al Hasan, a senior cricketer for Bangladesh, revealed his association with Betwinner News, a news site managed by a gambling corporation with its headquarters on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao.

The announcement cause a lot of controversy and a clarification from Shakib was requested by the Bangladesh Cricket Board. Additionally, the board gave him a deadline by which he had to either sever ties with the gambling firm or risk being fired from the national side.

After the ultimatum from BCB and criticism from the public, Shakib ultimately terminated his partnership with Betwinner News.

On December 18, the High Court ordered the government to provide justification for why it has not prohibited or removed online betting or gambling advertisements from digital and online platforms including social media and television, particularly sports channels.

The ruling was given during the hearing of a writ petition submitted by two Supreme Court advocates, Mohammad Miftaul Alam and Sumit Kumar Sarkar, by a bench comprising Justices KM Kamrul Kader and Muhammad Ali to ban gambling advertisements.

The High Court requested an explanation from the regulatory bodies as to why they did not prohibit advertisements for online betting or gambling in the middle of sporting events and newscasts, particularly on sports TV channels, news websites, and social media platforms with visible screens.

The chairman of the BTRC, the secretaries of the ministries of Posts, Telecommunications Division, Information and Communication Technology Division were all asked for their responses by the court.

All bets that rely on chance or include money are considered to be gambling, according to the petitioner’s lawyer Kamal Hossain Meahzi. He also told the court that gambling is prohibited as per a High Court decision but during live events, numerous television stations, particularly sports channels, air a variety of commercials for online betting platforms.

He stated that in accordance with article 18(2) of the Constitution, the state must take concrete efforts to outlaw gambling.