MIB issues fourth advisory against adverts of illegal online betting platforms, surrogate brands

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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has released a fourth advisory against advertisements and promotion of illegal online betting websites and their surrogate brands in print, digital (including social media) and on TV.

Prior to this, the MIB had issued three advisories on the same matter. Despite that, many of the platforms have apparently chosen to ignore it and have been signing up sponsorship contracts with surrogate brands of these illegal betting websites.

The latest advisory is specifically addressed to newspaper publishers, private satellite television channels, digital news publishers, online advertisement intermediaries and social media platforms.

Just like this one, the previous advisories had also mentioned that betting and gambling is an illegal activity in India. Due to its nature, the advisory mentioned that any advertisement, be it direct or indirect, is in violation of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and the Press Council Act 1978, among others.

The recently amended rule 3 (l) (b) of the Information Technology Rules, 2021 also stipulates that intermediaries should make efforts not to display, publish or transmit information regarding a game that is not verified as permissible, is a surrogate advertisement for non-permissible games or of a company offering such games to users.

The advisory also states that the Central Government has taken action against people who collected money from users of illegal online gaming apps and laundered it out of the country. Apart from socio-economic and financial risks to young people, the activities also pose a security risk to the nation.

The recent advisory notes that, despite previous warnings, there are still many adverts on social media platforms of surrogate brands and they spike during major sporting events like cricket tournaments. The MIB seems concerned with the trend.

The MIB concludes the advisory by advising the aforementioned media platforms to refrain from publishing advertisements of these illegal betting platforms or their surrogates, failing which the Centre will be compelled to take appropriate action under the various statutes.