In one of our previous blogs, “Covid-19 and Online Gambling in India”, the guidelines issued by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) regarding online gambling advertisements for real money winnings were covered.
The stated guidelines, which came into effect on December 15, 2020, essentially included not showing people under the age of 18 engaging in such online gambling for real money winnings in advertisements; print advertisements as well as audio/video advertisements warning that such games involve financial risk, may be addictive and should be played responsibly; not depict online gambling as an income opportunity/another employment option and not suggest that those involved in such gambling activity do better than others in such advertisements.
Subsequently, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued a notice dated June 13, 2022, urging publishers of news and current affairs content on digital media to refrain from publishing advertisements on online betting platforms and social networks. Online advertising intermediaries have also been advised not to target these advertisements to Indian audiences.
As we have also mentioned in our previous blogs, betting and gambling are prohibited in most parts of the country. Therefore, advertisements for betting and gambling are also prohibited under Article 9 (Advertising Prohibited by Law) of the Guidelines for the Prevention of Misleading Advertising and Approvals for Misleading Advertising, 2022 under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 and therefore the purpose of issuing the above notices/guidelines is to avoid causing significant financial or socio-economic risk to consumers, in particular young people and children.
On October 3, 2022, the MIB issued two new strongly worded advisories, one to private news channels and the other to online news sites and OTT platforms to avoid and cease broadcasting advertisements from online betting platforms and/or their substitute information sites. or any product/service describing these platforms in a surrogate way. This was done after the MIB learned that betting platform promotions and advertisements are still visible and active on some news and OTT platforms, and that some online offshore betting platforms have started using news websites as a substitute for advertising bets. digital media platforms. Online advertising intermediaries have again been advised not to target such advertisements to Indian audiences.
The reviews were supplemented by evidence containing direct and substitute advertisements from offshore betting platforms such as Fairplay, PariMatch, Betway, Wolf 777 and 1xBet (a company which has been banned in the US, UK and in Russia).  At first glance, it also appeared that many betting platforms also use Google Adsense to target search users. Additionally, many of them were clearly displayed advertisements on news websites in many of these incidents. 
In said notice, the MIB pointed out that advertisements of betting platforms, being an illegal activity, cannot be broadcast on digital media, in accordance with the Information Technology Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Code of Ethics) 2021. It has further been observed by the MIB that the logos of the relevant news websites (these websites are not registered with any legal authority as per Indian laws) are similar to betting platforms. The notice states that the Department of Consumer Affairs has also found that online betting platforms present themselves as professional sports blogs, sports news websites, etc. while providing an indicative list of online betting platforms that use news websites etc. for substitute advertising.
It should be noted that skill-based games fall outside the scope of this advisory as also stated by All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) CEO Roland Landers who is confident that the advisory will bring clarity between betting and games of chance and games of skill. “We have been consistent in drawing the MIB’s attention to the threat of offshore gambling companies such as 1XBet and fantasy fairplay, among other things, advertising. Just to clarify that most game companies in India have fought and won in court that fantasy games and pay games (real money games) are skill based games. Therefore, they do not fall under the notice.
In view of the above, it is sincerely hoped that these encouraging efforts by Autonomous ASCI and MIB will succeed in suppressing any unfair intrusion into online news websites and OTT platforms so that the public interests more wide are saved.