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Business News/ News / India/  Govt issues advisory against real-money gaming ads
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Govt issues advisory against real-money gaming ads

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting warned of appropriate actions under various statutes for violation of the norms

The ministry, through this move, aims to prevent both direct and surrogate advertising of games that may qualify as betting or gambling.Premium
The ministry, through this move, aims to prevent both direct and surrogate advertising of games that may qualify as betting or gambling.

New Delhi: The government on Friday warned media, social media platforms and related parties against enabling and carrying advertisements run by online real-money gaming (RMG) firms. 

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) warned of “appropriate actions" under “various statutes" in case these platforms fail to follow its advisory. The ministry, through this move, aims to prevent both direct and surrogate advertising of games that may qualify as betting or gambling.

“Advertisements of gambling or betting platforms not only pose significant financial and socioeconomic risk for the consumers, especially (the) youth and children, but have linkages to money laundering networks, thereby threatening the financial security of the country," the advisory issued on Friday read.

It further said that advertisement intermediaries and social media platforms “have been allowing direct and indirect advertisements of betting and gambling platforms during major sporting events, including cricket tournaments… (with) tendency to spike promotion of such betting and gambling platforms during a major sporting event."

As a result, the advisory asked these platforms “to immediately refrain from showing such advertisements or promotional content in any form whatsoever, failing with the government would be constrained to take appropriate action under various statutes."

The advisory comes a day after Mint reported concerns on behalf of the I&B Ministry in this regard. “With the World Cup and Asia Cup around the corner, there will be more of an emphasis on this. We are very concerned about online betting platforms that are leading to financial frauds and major irregularities," Vikram Sahay, joint secretary of the I&B Ministry, told Mint at the sidelines of a gaming event in Delhi.

The ministry, in this regard, had also issued similar advisories in June and October last year, as well as March this year.

Industry stakeholders said that while the Centre’s stance on the real-money gaming sector has not been ambiguous, a key concern lies in the implementation and enforcement of self-regulatory bodies (SRBs) in the online gaming sector—mandated under Rule 3(1)(b) of the 2 January amendment of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

Jay Sayta, a technology and gaming lawyer, said, "The issue is that SRBs for permissible online games have not been operationalized under the IT Rules, but the advisory mentions intermediaries requiring to carry only advertisements of ‘permissible’ online RMGs. If many advertisers and intermediaries have not been following advisories in the past one year, why isn't penal action being initiated, and why is the government issuing warnings through advisories while not initiating any concrete criminal action against advertisers for flagrant violations?"

A senior policy advisor to multiple online gaming firms in the country, who requested anonymity, said that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has not offered clarifications on a timeline for when the appointment of SRBs be cleared.

“There have been multiple rounds of questions and clarifications between the Centre and multiple stakeholders of the online gaming industry about operating procedures and other particulars of SRBs. However, we are yet to receive clarity on when the mechanism would be implemented," the advisor said.

An emailed query to a Meity spokesperson remained unanswered until press time.

However, even without the establishment of SRBs, there are legal grounds for companies to face legal action for non-compliance with advisories.

Sayta clarified that the restrictions on advertising would not be applicable to the nascent esports industry. The latter has, of late, begun striking partnerships with mainstream broadcast platforms to advertise and telecast tournaments—such as Nazara’s Nodwin Gaming partnering with Star Sports to broadcast Battlegrounds Mobile India Master Series, and Krafton partnering with streaming platform JioCinema for live telecast of its Battlegrounds Mobile India Series this year.

“Statutes that can be applied on illegal online gaming firms and advertisers carrying ads of such platforms include state gambling acts and the Consumer Protection Act. If there is evidence of money laundering, illegal foreign remittances and tax evasion, then laws such as the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the Goods and Services Tax Act, and the Income Tax Act will also be applicable," he added.

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Shouvik Das
Shouvik Das is a science, space and technology reporter for Mint and TechCircle. In his previous stints, he worked at publications such as CNN-News18 and Outlook Business. He has also reported on consumer technology and the automobile sector.
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Published: 25 Aug 2023, 04:37 PM IST
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