Illegal betting platforms remain notable concern within gaming industry

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Despite explicit government advisories, the active promotion of services by illegal betting platforms remains a notable concern within the gaming industry. A recent example involves the partnership between Dabang Delhi and the surrogate brand of the Fun88 betting app.

Titled Fun88News, the surrogate website had announced the partnership of the brand for the upcoming season of the Pro Kabaddi League. Similar to other surrogate brands, Fun88 has also added ‘news’ to promote itself as a news blog, with the aim to acquire as many users as possible on their primary business, betting. The advertisements of offshore illegal betting platforms such as Fun88 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.

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.

Other banned platforms using such rampant promotional tactics include Lotus365 and 1xBet, have aimed to benefit from the following and allure of celebrities like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Suniel Shetty, Urvashi Rautela, Tamannaah Bhatia to push their illegal platforms.

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.

These banned betting platforms have infiltrated sub-national Sports Leagues for promotions.

As a recent development, the teams participating in the Saurashtra Premier League have reportedly onboarded surrogate brands of illegal betting sites as sponsors, indicating a broader trend. The ongoing promotions by these platforms, despite repeated government advisories, raise ethical questions concerning the financial backing of these events and the potential implications for the fairness of the competitions.

Prior to SPL, illegal betting companies and their surrogates were also spotted as sponsors of teams participating in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) 2023 season. Likewise, Maharaja T20 Trophy had also welcomed these surrogate betting brands as sponsors.

Notably, all these state T20 leagues have the blessings of the BCCI which itself does not entertain bids from betting and gambling brands for its entities.

Government advisories serve the purpose of safeguarding consumers and preserving the integrity of sports.

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) did send notices to Bollywood actors Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Urvashi Rautela, OTT services like Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, among others, but despite three advisories so far many of them are still allowing their promotions.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued an advisory for influencers as social media outlets are the hotspots of these illegal betting platforms’ promotions.

Notably, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, has received more than 8000 complaints against these illegal entities since 2018, as reported by News 18.

G2G News has covered the practice of using celebrities and social media influencers by illegal offshore betting platforms extensively. More and more celebrities have come onboard to promote these illegal platforms in recent times which can be attributed to the lack of punitive action by the government so far. It remains to be seen if the next advisory brings about the intended outcome and whether the government takes more strict measures.