Exclusive: Pokerbaazi drags ASCI to Court for advertisement takedown by YouTube

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Moonshine Technologies, the parent entity of poker platform Pokerbaazi has approached the Delhi High Court seeking permanent injunction against certain directions by advertising self regulatory body ASCI. The issue pertains to a poker YouTube campaign by Bollywood star Shahid Kapoor where he is shown roaming the streets playing a game of poker on his mobile phone and ignoring his surroundings.

ASCI consumer compliants council concluded that the advertisement promotes unsafe/dangerous activities and encourages negligence. Pokerbaazi said YouTube has taken down the advertisement basis this direction from ASCI. The YouTube advertisement allegedly contravened Chapter III, 3.3 of the ASCI Code. The plea was heard by a bench of Justice Amit Bansal on 13 September 2022.

Lawyer for Pokerbaazi said that the advertisement in question has a limited life and they have spent Rs.35,00,00,000/- in
respect of the said advertisement.

Counsel appearing on behalf of ASCI informed that Court that the said communication is in the nature of a recommendation only and the same is not binding, either on the Pokerbaazi or on any of the advertisers.

If entities do not comply with their recommendations, ASCI forwards the compliant to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Department of Consumer Affairs and the compliant closes at ASCI end.

Delhi HC opined that the ASCI directions cannot be read in a manner to infer that Google LLC has taken down the advertisement of Pokerbaazi on account of the communication received from ASCI. Noting that Pokerbaazi has an option of seeking a review of ASCI recommendations, the Court refused to pass any interim orders. The next date of hearing is on December 9, 2022.

From January 2021 to January 2022, ASCI has processed 117 complaints related to online real money gaming. The majority of violations pertains to digital medium. Earlier this year, the government in the Parliament said it issued an advisory to private satellite TV channels to comply with the guidelines of ASCI on advertisements relating to online gaming to protect consumers and inform them regarding financial risk.

In this March 2022 alone when IPL 2022 commenced, 285 social media ads of online real-money gaming companies were identified as being in violation of the ASCI Code.