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Stop ads of offshore betting sites, government to digital media platforms, TV channels

The ministry of information and broadcasting on Monday asked private television channels, digital news publishers and OTT platforms to refrain from showing advertisements for online betting sites and surrogate advertisements.

In a new advisory, the ministry said such sites pose significant financial and socio-economic risks for consumers, especially youth and children.

On June 13, the ministry had issued a similar advisory to newspapers, private TV channels and digital news publishers to refrain from publishing advertisements for 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 for offshore online betting platforms as well as their surrogate news websites,” the ministry said in a release. “The advisories were supplemented with evidence, which contained direct and surrogate advertisements of offshore betting platforms such as Fairplay, PariMatch, Betway, Wolf 777 and 1xBet.”

In the advisory, the ministry said online offshore betting platforms are now using news websites as a surrogate product to advertise the betting platforms on digital media. In such cases, the ministry has found that the logos of surrogate news websites bear a striking resemblance to betting platforms.

Moreover, the ministry said that neither the betting platforms nor the news websites are registered under any legal authority in India. Such websites are promoting betting and gambling under the garb of news as surrogate advertising.

The advisories issued by the ministry said that since betting and gambling are illegal in most parts of the country, advertisements for 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 has said that such advertisements are not in conformity with various related laws and has strongly advised TV channels as well as digital news publishers to refrain from broadcasting such betting platforms or their surrogate news websites, reminding TV channels that violation may invite penal action. The ministry has also advised online advertisement intermediaries to not target such advertisements towards Indian audiences.

According to All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) estimates, platforms like Dafabet, Betway, Bet365, Parimatch, Fairplay and 1xBet are seeing deposits of between Rs750 crore and Rs 1,400 crore per month.

“We are grateful to the government for taking such a decisive step against illegal offshore gambling websites, which have been advertising in India in the garb of surrogate news and sports websites,” said Roland Landers, CEO, AIGF.

AIGF has been highlighting this menace since 2018 and has been constantly taking up these issues with various central ministries and also providing evidence of uninterrupted advertising on major Indian OTT and satellite channels.

“We will continue to monitor this and report any infraction to the government,” Landers said. “We hope that, unlike earlier, the TV networks, OTTs and digital news publishers will take this advisory seriously and not support these anti-national websites and give them prime time airspace. This will also help distinguish legitimate Indian online skill gaming players, which provide the highest player protection measures and are a form of entertainment, from these illegal gambling sites, which is the main reason for widespread consumer harm and problems.”

The I&B ministry has worked in close coordination with the Department of Consumer Affairs for the issue of the advisories.

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