Home / News / India /  I&B ministry prohibits online betting ads and surrogates on TV, digital platform

I&B ministry prohibits online betting ads and surrogates on TV, digital platform

The advisory comes in light of instances of a number of advertisements of online betting websites/platforms appearing in print, electronic, social and online media.Premium
The advisory comes in light of instances of a number of advertisements of online betting websites/platforms appearing in print, electronic, social and online media.

The ministry of information and broadcasting issued two advisories, for private television channels and digital news publishers and OTT platforms, asking them to refrain from showing advertisements, including surrogate ads, of online betting sites.

The ministry of information and broadcasting issued two advisories, for private television channels and digital news publishers and OTT platforms on Monday, asking them to refrain from showing advertisements, including surrogate ads, of online betting sites, calling them a significant financial and socio-economic risk for consumers.

The ministry has said that online offshore betting platforms are now using news websites as a means for surrogate advertising on digital media where logos of surrogate news websites bear striking resemblance to betting platforms and neither the betting platforms nor the news websites are registered under any legal authority in India.

Violation of the advisory would invite penal action under applicable laws, the note added.

This June, the ministry had issued an advisory asking newspapers, private TV channels and digital news publishers to refrain from publishing advertisements of online betting platforms.

“It had come to the notice of the government that several sports channels on television, as well as on OTT platforms, have recently been showing advertisements of offshore online betting platforms as well as their surrogate news websites," the ministry said in a statement naming platforms such as Fairplay, PariMatch, Betway, Wolf 777, and 1xBet. Such websites are promoting betting and gambling under the garb of news, it added. The I&B ministry has worked closely with the department of consumer affairs which provided an indicative list of online betting platforms which were using news for surrogate advertising, including professional sports blogs, sports news websites, and so on.

The advisories issued by the ministry stated that since betting and gambling is illegal in most parts of the country, advertisements of these betting platforms as well as their surrogates are also illegal. The advisories relied upon the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2019, Cable TV Network Regulation Act 1995 and the IT Rules, 2021, the ministry said.

“Promotion of offline or online betting or gambling through advertisements is not advised in larger public interest," the statement from the ministry said.

Manisha Kapoor, chief executive officer of self regulatory body, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) said betting and its advertising are restricted by law in India and therefore the current advisories reinforce that. “We have seen a fair bit of such advertising on cricket platforms and even in casual gaming apps. Since these are in potential breach of the law, broadcasters and platforms need to be careful of regulations that govern these," Kapoor said. Airing such ads is harmful not just for consumers but also for the reputation of such platforms and channels that accept such ads, she said.

“ASCI has clear guidelines for legitimate brand extensions allowed by law. However, when the product category itself is outlawed in parts of India, the government must rightly step in. Given that cricket is watched by a wide audience including children it is disappointing to see such ads continue. We hope the current advisories act as deterrents as clear penal action has been indicated," she added.

The government has been tightening its noose on companies that are advertising through surrogates, said Meenakshi Menon, communication specialist and founder and chairperson of Spatial Access Pvt. Ltd., an audit and advisory in marketing services. “In the larger context, it seems the government wants a share of the pie. While using the law, they are preventing the entire betting and gambling system that is bypassing the exchequer. In the next six months, we may see some sort of formalisation in this space." she said.

Since the government has given a deadline, the channels will need to make sure they stop the ads. “Channels may be terribly upset at this development as it will mean losing revenue at a time when there has already not been much FMCG, e-commerce and online education platforms advertising right now," Menon said.

Communications strategy consultant Karthik Srinivasan said the betting companies seem to be using a grey area to advertise by seeking legitimacy via Indian celebrities and advertising along with TV news channels. It’s a good move in the right direction by the government. Much like the loan apps, these can lead a lot of people to lose their hard-earned money,“ Srinivasan said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lata Jha

Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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