Second alert in 4 months: Penalty for betting ads on TV, OTT, says Govt

ISSUING ITS second such alert within a span of four months, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Monday asked TV channels, digital news publishers and OTT platforms to refrain from showing advertisements of online betting sites, including surrogate ads. It warned that violations would lead to penal action.

In two separate advisories — one for digital media and OTT platforms, and the other for private satellite TV channels — the Government said “some online offshore betting platforms” have started using their medium “as a surrogate product to advertise their betting platforms”.

It pointed out that “betting and gambling is an illegal activity in most parts of India” and cannot be shown. The advisories were supplemented with evidence, comprising direct and surrogate advertisements of offshore betting platforms such as Fairplay, PariMatch, Betway, Wolf 777 and 1xBet, the Ministry said in a statement issued Monday.

The Indian Express had reported on September 12 about how controversial offshore betting website 1xBet had launched a marketing blitzkrieg during the cricket Asia Cup under the banner of a “professional sportsblog” to circumvent the rules despite being banned in several countries, including Russia where it was founded. FairPlay, too, has been on an advertising overdrive during the Asia Cup and the tennis US Open, in an attempt to lure new customers.

The Ministry had earlier issued an advisory on June 13, advising newspapers, private TV channels and digital news publishers to refrain from publishing advertisements of online betting platforms.

In the latest statement, the Ministry said, “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.”

In the advisories, the Ministry stated 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 striking resemblance to betting platforms.

Moreover, the Ministry 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, it said.

Citing the Consumer Protection Act 2019, Cable TV Network Regulation Act 1995 and the IT Rules, 2021, the Ministry warned that such advertisements are not in conformity with laws. It strongly advised TV channels as well as digital news publishers from broadcasting such betting platforms or their surrogate news websites, reminding them that violation may invite penal action.

The Ministry has also advised online advertisement intermediaries to not target such advertisements towards the Indian audience. It said that betting and gambling pose significant financial and socio-economic risk for the consumers, especially youth and children. Accordingly, it said, the promotion of offline or online betting or gambling through advertisements is not advised in larger public interest.

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