Government’s response to 13 MPs in Lok Sabha on betting ads an eyewash

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The Central Government, in recent times, came up with various circulars/guidelines concerning illegal betting and casino websites. Notable is an advisory by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) directing the print, electronic, and digital media from refraining from publishing advertisements related to betting and gambling.

Last month, the Consumer Affairs ministry issued guidelines under the Consumer Protection Act that prohibited surrogate advertising normally adopted by offshore betting websites.

However, despite these measures, online betting and gambling advertisements continue to be unabated. A top broadcaster like Sony which holds overseas telecast rights in India for England’s home cricket matches has the betting website PariMatch as one of the key sponsors in the just concluded India series. Bollywood veteran Bipasha Basu was recently seen promoting an illegal casino and betting website by the name of Ambanibook. Cricketer Suresh Raina promotes the betting platform 1xbet.

So when 13 Lok Sabha members raised queries on illegal betting and gambling ads in the ongoing Parliament session, one would expect the central government to provide concrete measures undertaken to prevent online betting and gambling advertisements.

However, to the disappointment, the central government responded by just stating betting and gambling is a state subject and as regards broadcasting the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, the recently notified rules under Consumer Protection Act, 2019 are in place.

It is despite these measures the advertisements are continuing and one would expect the actions taken by the government in this regard to be disclosed. The regulations, circulars, and notifications, can be termed as talk only. It is time for the government to act which is currently missing.

Top actors and cricketers continue to promote illegal offshore betting websites and encourage or abet money-laundering and tax evasion by illegal and unlicensed online betting platforms because they are aware no action will be taken despite regulations in place.

It is time for action to be initiated promptly against broadcasters like Sony, actors and cricketers for continuing to promote illegal betting and gambling. The number of gambling-related suicides has increased multifold in recent times and the government is duty bound to safeguard its citizens.