Taking a dim view of online betting companies advertising on Indian platforms, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has instructed the private satellite channels to ensure that ‘advertisements do not promote any activity which is prohibited by statute or law.’
In an advisory issued to ‘all private satellite TV channels’ on Friday, the government said concerns were expressed that advertisements on online gaming, which includes betting, and fantasy sports were misleading and not adhering to the ‘Advertising Code laid down under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and Consumer Protection Act, 2019.’
“It had come to the notice of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting that a large number of advertisements on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports, etc have been appearing on television,” the MIB stated. “Concerns were expressed that such advertisements appear to be misleading, do not correctly convey to the consumers the financial and other risks associated thereof, are not in strict conformity with the Advertising Code.”
The Indian Express reported on Thursday two online betting companies ran direct advertising campaigns during the live streaming of the India-Australia one-day international series on SonyLIV, allowing users from India to place bets online using the Indian banking system. Online sports betting is prohibited in all states and union territories, except Sikkim.
Experts had flagged concerns over the development, saying it violated the The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) guidelines, which state that “advertisements shall not propagate products, the use of which is banned under the law”. ASCI had said their guidelines cover the content of advertisements of real-money gaming that appear on any platform, including OTT.
In its advisory, the MIB reiterated the rule. “In the light of the above, all broadcasters are advised that the Guidelines issued by ASCI are complied with and advertisements broadcast on television adhere to the aforementioned Guidelines of ASCI,” the MIB said.
“It may also be ensured that advertisements do not promote any activity which is prohibited by statute or law.” The MIB also reiterated the guidelines for online gaming and fantasy sports, which were released on November 24 and will be enforced from December 15. According to the regulation, ads related to online gaming for real money must have proper disclaimers in relation to under-age participants as well as the potential financial risks.
“The advertisements should not present ‘Online gaming for real money winnings’ as an income opportunity or alternate employment option,” it added. “The advertisement should not suggest that a person engaged in gaming activity is in any way more successful as compared to others.”
Self-regulation for fantasy leagues?
Niti Aayog on Friday published a draft for discussion to regulate online fantasy sports platforms in India. Online fantasy sports like Dream11, Mobile Premier League and My11Circle, among others, have been accused of treading a fine line between sports betting and fantasy gaming. These games are banned in several states, which have strict gambling laws. However, recent High Court verdicts have said these are games of skill and not chance and therefore do not amount to gambling.
“Fantasy sports contests do not have independent legal recognition, having to shelter under an undefined exception to the state gambling and public order laws,” the draft stated. “Formal recognition of the fantasy sports industry and providing for principle-led governance would enable Indian OFSP (Online Fantasy Sports Platform) operators to focus on innovation and achieve scale and expand their operations in a clear and principle-based regulatory environment, achieving the mission of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Initiative and the Prime Minister’s vision of Indian-made and developed applications flourishing and succeeding in India and outside India as well.”
The government’s think-tank has said ‘self-regulation must also be the preferred mode of governance to ensure ongoing transparency, consumer protection and accountability.’ It also suggested guiding principles for the industry, which it says ‘may be treated as a uniform “regulatory sandbox”.’
Niti Aayog has invited comments till December 19, following which a formal paper will be prepared. The final decision on the issue will be with the Cabinet based on the draft prepared by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
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