Sunday Times publish full front page ads promoting betting and gambling in blatant violation of MIB advisory

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Sunday Times (Times of India group) today published full front-page advertisements promoting an illegal and rogue gambling brand Lotus365 despite two strongly worded advisories rom the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in June and October last year. This brand is promoted by Bollywood actors Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kajal Agrawal, and Urvasi Rautela.

In the advisory, citing significant financial and socio-economic risks for the consumers, the central government said that multiple online offshore betting platforms were using news websites as surrogate products to advertise their platforms. The government advised print, digital, and television media to refrain from promoting gambling brands.

With the embargo on online advertisements, the illegal platforms have focused on outdoor advertising including bus shelters, metro trains, etc. Recently, responding to a tweet, the Hyderabad police announced registering criminal cases against the management of Lotus 365 and the outdoor advertising agency for promoting gambling using advertising space on bus shelters in the city. Despite this recent criminal charge, Lotus 365 today published full front-page ads in newspapers with blatant disregard.

The advertisement spree started recently after a lull in November and December 2021. Interestingly, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Press Council of India and law enforcement agencies have turned a blind eye after the October advisory.

The Bollywood actors involved can also be booked for promoting illegal gambling, however, no action seems to have been taken against them. Earlier, NCP leaders demanded the arrest of the Bollywood actors involved in promoting gambling and betting.

All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), the apex self-regulatory body for skill gaming in India has been consistently raising the issue of offshore betting websites advertising aggressively in violation of laws in India and has written to PM Modi earlier this year.

On 4th December 2020, the MIB issued an advisory to Private Satellite TV channels to adhere to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) guidelines on advertisements of online gaming which contained specific Dos and Don’ts for print and audio-visual advertisements of online gaming. Today’s newspaper advertisement is also in violation of these ASCI guidelines.