The Central Government on October 3 (Monday) issued advisories to digital publishers, OTT platforms, and private satellite television channels, stating them to not publish advertisements of the online betting platforms.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) in its advisory has said that certain digital news platforms and OTT platforms are promoting and advertising betting platforms. Making its stand clear on the matter, the government has said that gambling and betting is an illegal activity in most of the country, and advertisements of online offshore betting and gambling platforms are prohibited.
“Accordingly the online offshore betting platforms appear to be promoting betting and gambling under the garb of news as surrogate advertising. In this regard, the Department of Consumer Affairs has also informed that online betting platforms have been advertising themselves as professional sports blogs, sports news websites, etc. while providing an indicative list of online betting platforms which are using news for surrogate advertising,” the government added.
The government also noted that the logos of surrogate news platforms operated by the online betting sites are similar to the betting platform. It also cleared that neither these betting platforms nor the corresponding news websites are registered with any legal authority under Indian laws.
The Ministry has also mentioned that betting and gambling pose significant financial and socio-economic risks for consumers, especially youth and children. As a result, the promotion of offline or online betting and gambling through advertisements is not advised in the larger public interest.
“In this regard, the Department of Consumer Affairs has also informed that online betting platforms have been advertising themselves as professional sports blogs, sports news websites, etc. while providing an indicative list of online betting platforms which are using news for surrogate advertising”, the government said.
“Contravention/violation of the above may invite penal action under the applicable laws”, warned the ministry.
Earlier in June, the MIB had issued a similar advisory. It warned the print and electronic media as well as social media and advertisement intermediaries and publishers to not publish advertisements of online betting platforms and target Indian audiences. The Consumer Affairs ministry had stated that these advertisements were misleading and did not strictly conform with the Consumer Protection Act 2019, Advertising Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995.
Speaking about this development, Roland Landers, CEO of the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), thanked the Centre for this “decisive step”. He said that the AIGF has been consistently advocating for the same since 2018 and providing various ministries with evidence of advertising by illegal offshore gambling websites.
“We are grateful to the Government for taking such a decisive step against illegal offshore gambling websites, which have been advertising in India in the garb of surrogate news and sports websites. AIGF has been highlighting this menace since 2018, and has been constantly taking up these issues with various Central Ministries and also providing evidence of uninterrupted advertising on major Indian OTT and satellite channels. We will continue to monitor this and report any infraction to the Government. We hope that unlike earlier, the TV networks, OTTs and digital news publishers will take this advisory seriously and not support these anti-national websites and give them prime-time airspace. This will also help in distinguishing legitimate Indian online skill gaming players, which provide the highest player protection measures and are a form of entertainment against these illegal gambling sites which is the main reason for widespread consumer harm and problems,” Landers said.