Online gaming is dubbed as one of the fastest growing industries in India with millions of active players. However, there are some illicit platforms which offer online gambling and betting services and attempt to blend in with online gaming apps, duping innocent people out of money.
The advertisements of such offshore illegal betting platforms are made to look similar to the ones by legal online gaming platforms and feature celebrities and influencers. Fans who consider these celebrities as their idols get influenced and try out these illegal betting platforms only to see their money disappear with false promises of receiving heavy returns without any risk.
In order to put a stop to the operations of illegal betting platforms, the central government authorities have already taken some measures. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued four advisories, asking advertisers, OTT platforms, Cable TV services to refrain from showing such advertisements and celebrities to not sign deals with illegal platforms.
Despite that, the promotions are still rampant on social media, outdoor, and in newspapers with no punitive action being taken against any platform or celebrity whatsoever. So far, only warnings have been issued on the matter.
Do celebrity advertisements really work?
You might ask, are celebrity advertisements really an issue? Do people actually fall for them? The answer is yes, a majority of people look up to them and are ready to believe what they say.
Last year, a study by Dheeraj Sharma, Director Professor at IIM Rohtak, concluded that a majority of the people are likely to check out the illegal betting platform promoted by celebrities. Moreover, the success of the promotion also depends on how attractive or famous the celebrity or influencer is.
Here’s a look at some of the largest illegal betting platforms which constantly change domains and use celebrities to promote themselves –
Fairplay, whose name is quite contradictory to its actions, is an illegal betting platform that makes use of celebrity promotions with big stars like Badshah and Jacqueline Fernandez in their beck and call.
Over the last year, Fairplay has shared several promotional posts every day. Despite the government banning multiple domains, they openly promote their new domain, asking people to use that instead. Someone changing domains every month should serve as enough reason to raise red flags on their operations.
Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, Lotus365, another illegal betting platform, is now warning people about others using their name falsely and scamming people. To counter that, they direct them to use online ID services. It is one of the most notorious illegal betting platforms that hires multiple A-tier celebrities for promotion.
To name a few, there is Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Suniel Shetty, Urvashi Rautela, Tamannaah Bhatia, among others. Lotus365 skillfully makes use of Instagram for promotion and has done several collaboration videos with these celebrities.
Fun88, a Chinese illegal betting platform that recently started ramping up its promotions in India, has been found to make use of the metro system in Mumbai for its promotions featuring popular cricketers and has even gone on to offer illegal lottery draws and satta matka on their platforms to lure in the locals.
Another illegal betting platform named 1xBet uses similar advertisement techniques and is known for taking a direct approach by teaming up with popular sports celebrities to promote their platforms and the betting services.
These are only a handful of illegal betting platforms; the count is far more and we have just scratched the surface on the matter. There are also several other illegal betting platforms operating quietly to not attract any attention.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information and Technology (MeitY) has banned over 100 domains of these illegal betting platforms. Despite that, these operators have been hopping domains and continuing their operations.
One of the reasons for lack of punitive action by the authorities on some of these advertisements is due to how they are done. Most of these illegal betting platforms have surrogate brands which carry the same name but provide different services, for example, a sports news website by the same name as the betting platform, a clothing brand, among others. The celebrities often promote these surrogate brands to avoid getting into any legal trouble.
The surrogate brands take advantage and add promotional material to lure people towards their illegal betting platform, or straight up put links redirecting users there and ensuring they make an account through joining bonuses.
A sound option for the authorities to lower the influence of illegal betting platforms could be to make people aware of the modus operandi of these illegal betting platforms.