In light of the significant financial and socio-economic risk for the consumers, especially youth and children, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Monday issued two advisories- one for private television channels and the other for digital news publishers and OTT platforms- strongly advising them to refrain from showing advertisements of offshore online betting sites and surrogate advertisements of such sites.
The Ministry had earlier issued an advisory on June 13, 2022, advising newspapers, private TV channels and digital news publishers to refrain from publishing advertisements on 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 Advisories were supplemented with evidence which contained direct and surrogate advertisements of offshore betting platforms such as Fairplay, PariMatch, Betway, Wolf 777, and 1xBet.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in its advisory observed that promotional content and advertisements of betting platforms are still visible on certain digital news platforms and OTT platforms.
In the Advisories, the Ministry has informed that 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.
"Further, it has also come to the notice of that some online offshore betting platforms have started using news websites as a surrogate product to advertise betting platforms on digital media," the ministry said.
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.
Emphasizing that betting and gambling is an illegal activity in most parts of India, the ministry said advertisements of online offshore betting and gambling platforms are prohibited.
Moreover, the Ministry has stated 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.
"In accordance with Paragraph 9 of the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements 2022 under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, it has been observed that since betting and gambling is illegal, advertisements of online offshore betting and gambling platforms are prohibited. In this regard, it may be noted that in accordance with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, advertisements of betting platforms, being an illegal activity, cannot be shown on digital media," it said.
The Ministry said that with respect of the advertisements of the surrogate news websites operated by the online betting platforms, it may be mentioned that the logos of the concerned news websites are strikingly similar to the betting platform.
"The concerned betting platforms and the corresponding news websites are also not registered with any legal authority under Indian laws.
Accordingly, the online offshore betting platforms appear to be promoting betting and gambling under the garb of news as surrogate advertising. In this regard, the Department of Consumer Affairs has also informed that online betting platforms have been advertising themselves as professional sports blogs, sports news websites, etc. while providing an indicative list of online betting platforms which are using news for surrogate advertising," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry asked the online news websites and OTT platforms are strongly advised to refrain from broadcasting advertisements of online betting platforms and/or their surrogate news websites or any such product/service depicting these platforms in a surrogate manner.
It has now come to the notice of this Ministry that some online offshore betting platforms have started using news websites as surrogate products to advertise their betting platforms on TV channels.
In a separate advisory to Private Satellite Television Channels, the Ministry said that some online offshore betting platforms have started using news websites as a surrogate product to advertise their betting platforms on TV channels.
"In this regard, it may be noted that in accordance with the Advertising Code under Cable TV Network Regulation Act 1995, advertisements of betting platforms, being an illegal activity, cannot be shown 3. on TV channels," it added.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting worked in close coordination with the Department of Consumer Affairs which provided an indicative list of online betting platforms which were using news for surrogate advertising and informed that online betting platforms have been advertising themselves in a surrogate manner as professional sports blogs, sports news websites, etc.
The Ministry has stated that such advertisements are not in conformity with various related laws and has strongly advised TV channels as well as digital news publishers 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 toward Indian audiences.
The Ministry has mentioned that betting and gambling pose significant financial and socio-economic risks for consumers, especially youth and children. Accordingly, the promotion of offline or online betting/gambling through advertisements is not advised in the larger public interest.
(With Inputs from ANI)