Pakistan: Betting websites in PSL raises eyebrows in the conservative country

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The Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2022 got underway last month and is scheduled to conclude in the last week of February. The defending champions Multan Sultans are currently at the top of the points table having won 8 of the 9 games played. While the tournament is in progress, betting affiliated websites making their way to grounds as sponsors raised eyebrows in the conservative Asian country.

A report in Cricket Pakistan alleged that betting companies are looking for new avenues in Pakistan and in the last year or so, three different companies have sponsored sports tournaments in the country including Pakistan Super League (PSL). Currently, a logo of “Dafa News” is being painted on the ground and boundary advertisements are also being flashed during PSL matches.

Also read: The legality of Dafabet, Bet365 in India

Dafa News, one of the sponsors of PSL 2022 is an affiliate of Dafabet, a philippine based betting company. Dafa News adopts a similar strategy in India having sponsored Chennaiyin FC and Hyderabad FC in Indian Super League, Chennai Braves in the T10 cricket league, Haryana Steelers in the Pro Kabbadi League. Many of these teams prominently sport a Dafa logo on their jerseys.

PSL and Dafabet – a political storm

Commenting on the issue, Minister of Inter-Provincial Coordination of Pakistan, Fehmida Mirza has cautioned the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and gone on to say that betting is not acceptable. Furthermore, the minister also added that encouraging the act would only damage the reputation of the sport in Pakistan. “Betting can not be acceptable during the PSL matches as it damages the reputation of the game in the country. If there will be bets on PSL matches, it would be hard to stop the players from the trend of getting involved in fixing too. PCB must take action earnestly to stop these incidents,” she said as quoted by Cricket Pakistan. Meanwhile, Wolf 777 News, has a sponsorship deal with trophy defenders Multan Sultans.

As per a report on Cricket Pakistan, Multan Sultans stated that Wolf777 News is a sports website that is trying to compete on a regional level with other sports news websites. The Transgroup that has brand partnership rights stated that DafaNews is a fast-growing online news portal, which operates through digital app only. The statement clarified that DafaNews inadvertently and due to a technical oversight provided links to a betting website on the opening day of the event, which was disabled after the first match.

Pakistan prohibits betting and gambling and relies on the British era Public Gambling Act, 1867 which is similar to laws in force in India and Bangladesh. The Indian sub-continent is an untapped market for the betting sector. Betting is illegal in the Indian sub-continent by virtue of the British era laws.

The global betting industry is estimated to be over US$ 218 billion and these entities have a major market share. The betting industry thrived worldwide during Covid19 induced lockdown despite a shrink in sports events on which the wager is based. In India, when most of the industries were suffering heavy losses, online gaming was at an all-time high.  Some estimates state that the sub-continent online betting market is bigger than the rest of the world combined. With sports betting so popular although illegal in the subcontinent, the online betting companies are adopting surrogate advertising through affiliate websites in form of News.