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Betting firms advertise during India-Australia ODI series live stream, experts flag concerns

The ads of Malta-registered Betway and Philippines-based Dafabet were shown during the live streaming of the series between India and Australia on SonyLIV, the digital arm of the tour’s official broadcaster, Sony Pictures Network.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Updated: December 3, 2020 2:52:17 pm
BetwayA screengrab of Betway’s ad during the second ODI between India and Australia.

Two online sports betting giants ran direct advertising campaigns during the live streaming of the three-match ODI series in Australia, 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. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) guidelines state that “advertisements shall not propagate products, the use of which is banned under the law”.

The ads of Malta-registered Betway and Philippines-based Dafabet were shown during the live streaming of the series between India and Australia on SonyLIV, the digital arm of the tour’s official broadcaster, Sony Pictures Network.

“We have no knowledge about it,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told The Indian Express. “It is not the BCCI who has telecast rights and control over Australia versus Indian series. It is Cricket Australia, who has the rights. As per rule, we can only do anything if we are hosting any international game or it falls under our jurisdiction,” Dhumal said.

But according to legal experts, placing a bet online from India would be a violation of the country’s gambling and foreign exchange laws. “As per Indian law, except Sikkim, online sports betting is illegal in all territories,” said sport and gaming lawyer Vidushpat Singhania, who was the secretary to the Justice Mudgal-led IPL match-fixing probe committee.

“If a bet is placed online or offline in a gambling house and transactions are entered into, then besides being a violation of the gambling acts, the international transaction would violate the Foreign Exchange Management (Current Account Transaction) Rules,” he said.

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The websites ask their users for the PAN details and offer them the option to make payments via the net banking facility of almost all major banks. Dafabet even has the option of placing bets using bitcoins while Betway has ICICI Bank’s Unified Payments Interface platform as one of the modes of payment.

When contacted, an ICICI Bank spokesperson said: “We do not open accounts for online betting, in-line with the regulations. If we come across any person or entity misusing the account for such activities, we immediately report to the regulator and close the account.”

Betway and Dafabet did not respond to queries from The Indian Express. When asked if it was legal to show advertisements of a betting company, SonyLIV refused to comment. The matches were held over the last six days, with Australia winning the first two to wrap up the series that ended Wednesday 2-1.

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The Government, via the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, has instructed service providers and website hosts to block access to “certain websites and content”, which — under section 2B — includes anything that “relates or encourages money laundering or gambling”.

Indian bank accounts

However, it is not only possible for Indian users to access these websites but they can also register themselves on it to place bets online worth lakhs of rupees using Indian bank accounts.

Bets can be placed on multiple scenarios – who wins the toss, what will happen on the first ball of the match, method of first dismissal, performances of individual players, the outcome of the match and so on. The minimum deposit is Rs 500 while the maximum weekly limit goes up to Rs 27,50,000 and in some cases, there is no upper limit to the amount that can be waged.

When contacted, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said: “ASCI has issued guidelines regarding ads of online gaming.”

ASCI secretary-general Manisha Kapoor said their guidelines “cover the content of advertisements of real-money gaming that appear on any platform”. She, however, added that matters relating to the legality of their broadcast is ‘beyond ASCI’s jurisdiction’ since ‘gambling is a state subject.’

“This is a matter for state governments to decide … ASCI cannot decide which games are legal and which are not. However, if the content of any ad is in contravention of the ASCI Code, ASCI can process such complaints,” Kapoor told The Indian Express in an emailed statement.
(With Devendra Pandey)

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