Despite the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting issuing two strongly worded advisories to media houses last year to desist from advertising online gambling advertisements or any surrogate advertisements relating to illegal betting or gambling, most media houses are openly flouting anti-gambling legislations and other laws of the land by promoting offshore betting websites such as Betway, Lotus365, Wolf777 and Fairplay without any compunction.
Luring innocent users during the two months of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, which are crucial for illegal offshore bookmakers targeting the $100 billion plus betting market in the subcontinent market, blatantly false and misleading advertisements are being published by leading media houses such as Times of India, Hindustan Times and Dainik Bhaskar both digitally and through print edition of newspapers.
Some such ads have been seen digitally and in newspapers since the commencement of IPL and have continued to become a daily feature, with minors, youngsters and people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds becoming a target of such fraudulent and misleading promotions.
Sometimes couched as ‘Scoring Apps’,‘News Websites’ or ‘Blogs’ and at times directly soliciting wagers from users through open promotions, offshore gambling websites are probably breaking dozens of laws unabashedly and seem to challenge law enforcement authorities to catch them or take any concrete action.
Apart from conventional digital, electronic and print media adverts, the offshore gambling sites are also known to use influencers and celebrities make posts on their social media accounts, particularly on Instagram. These celebrities often make ludicrous claims and offshores, calling the websites ‘licensed’ or ‘legal’ with unrealistic and untrue bonus or cashback offers to attract customers.
Taking cognisance of this growing menace and the socio-economic risks that these apps or websites are fraught with, the Union Ministry of Information Technology & Electronics (MeitY) had recently blocked hundreds of domain names of betting websites, which include Betway, Wolf777, 1xbet, Khiladi, Fairplay, Parimatch and Lotus365. However, all of these websites have changed their domain names to ‘mirror websites’ or with a slight variation in domain extension to continue operations as normal.
A couple of such websites actually concocted and falsified PR stories to claim that their earlier domain names crashed due to ‘heavy traffic from users’ promoting them to start websites under fresh domain names.
Although the government has began the task of weeding out these bad operators in right earnest, these criminal-minded companies are way ahead in the race, conjuring new tricks and techniques to ensure their promotions continue to lure the people.
Unless the government and law enforcement agencies maintain continuous vigilance and take exemplary action against these perpetrators at the earliest, the shenanigans of the online betting mafia will likely continue unabated.