Google instructed to drop advertisements of online betting firms: Reports

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In response to a crackdown on illicit online gambling, India have instructed Google to cease showing surrogate adverts for offshore betting companies like Fairplay, PariMatch, Betway, and 1xBet in search results and on YouTube.

Two months ago, the government instructed broadcasters and online video streaming services to stop running these adverts.

An official from the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B Ministry) with knowledge of the matter said that Google India was instructed in a letter sent last week to stop running any direct or indirect advertisements on these betting platforms.

The senior ministry official said, “After our last advisory on 3 October, TV channels and OTT players stopped showing surrogate ads of online betting firms, but it was brought to our notice that many such ads are running on YouTube and Google. We have asked Google to stop this immediately.”

The official claims that the Center is worried about how many Indians are getting financially dependent on or losing money to legal online betting companies that do not have servers or a physical presence in India. Online gambling has been made illegal in many Indian states.

According to the government, betting websites provide major financial and socioeconomic hazards to users, especially young people and children.

According to the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), thousands of these companies’ agents in India receive deposits of 5,000 crore per month. The advocacy group claims that it is unknown where or how this money is being used.

The government is aware of how foreign online betting companies advertise their products on news websites instead of their own. Even still, there is a strong resemblance between alternative news and betting websites’ logos.

Prior to this, the ministry had “strongly recommended” TV networks and digital news outlets to forgo airing advertisements from such betting platforms or their surrogate news websites, warning TV networks that failure to comply could result in sanctions. Additionally, the ministry had recommended internet ad intermediaries not to direct such commercials at Indians.

Partner at Bharucha and Partners, Kaushik Moitra, said, “The I&B Ministry can direct platforms to stop carrying and further refrain from publishing advertisements for overseas betting companies in India.”

“The advisories of I&B stipulate that betting and gambling are classified as illegal activities in many states, and publication of such ads will be in violation of the Information Technology Rules, 2021. Further, in terms of paragraph 9 of the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022, framed under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, since betting and gambling are classified as ‘illegal activities’ in most states, the advertisement thereof is prohibited by law.”

According to the AIGF, which has been advocating against these offshore betting organizations, the most alarming aspect of these offshore websites is how they advertise and promote their illegal products.

The CEO of AIGF, Roland Landers, said, “They had been pushing incessant ads during telecasts of sporting events. Additionally, they have been using print and digital media, along with sponsorships of sports teams, to penetrate the consumer’s psyche further. We even see prominent influencers with sports and entertainment backgrounds endorsing such.”

“The I&B and the ministry of consumer affairs have established strict advisories against direct and surrogate advertisements by offshore and illegal gambling websites. This has resulted in a significant reduction in offshore gambling ads,” Landers added.