IPL 2024: Media houses and Mumbai Metro disregard govt advisories and promote illegal betting websites

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In a blatant disregard for government advisories, media houses continue to promote illegal betting and gambling platforms. It is worth noting that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) on 21 March 2024 issued an advisory directing social media platforms and online advertisement intermediaries to refrain from publishing and broadcasting advertisements of offshore online betting platforms or any such service depicting these platforms in a surrogate manner. A similar advisory was issued in June 2022 directing newspapers and private TV Channels to refrain from publishing advertisements on online betting platforms including in a surrogate manner.

Dainik Jagran, the country’s top Hindi language newspaper on 23 March 2024 ran a full front page advertisement promoting the surrogate brand 1xBat featuring cricketer Shikhar Dhawan. IPL is the peak season for illegal betting and gambling operators in the country and such advertisements often make a comeback in the IPL season every year while maintaining a low profile during the non-season part of the year.

Despite the number of advisories in the last couple of years, there are no reports of the government taking any concrete action on the print and digital media houses, or those promoting illegal betting and gambling platforms. This attitude of the government appears to have encouraged the media houses and celebrities to continue promotions of gambling platforms with impunity.

Further, the operators of Mumbai Metro have also decided to fill the coffers with money by permitting promotions of surrogate betting brands. These advertisements are placed on coaches of Mumbai metro trains and other properties owned by metro network operators.

Earlier this month, L&T the operator of the Hyderabad metro rail had drawn criticism for carrying out betting advertisements on the trains and pillars of the metro network. Continued promotion of illegal portals is a violation of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. However, the lack of action from the government authorities is aiding the operators to continue the activities.