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Govt cracks down on ads promoting betting with cricket matches on radar

Photo for representation.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting today advised all stakeholders, including media entities, online advertisement intermediaries and social media platforms, to immediately refrain from showing advertisements on betting or gambling in any form as it is illegal to do so and action can be taken against them under the law.

“Failure to adhere to this advisory may invite appropriate action from the Government under various statutes,” the advisory states.

The I&B Ministry has observed in its advisory that “there is a tendency to step up advertisements and promotion of such betting and gambling platforms during a major sporting event, especially cricket, and one such important international event is beginning in a few days from now.”

The advisory appears to be referring to the India vs Pakistan ODI cricket match to be held on September 2 as part of the Asia Cup series.

The Ministry has cited the recent Central Government action against a network of agents who had collected substantial money from users of gambling apps that had subsequently funnelled the funds out of India. This goes to show that advertisements of gambling or betting platforms pose significant financial and socio-economic risk for the consumers, especially youth and children.

The I&B Ministry has further stated that this mechanism has linkages to money laundering networks, thereby threatening the financial security of the country.

The Ministry has stated in the advisory that along with these illegalities, it is also highly likely that black money is used to pay for such advertisements. To that end, the Ministry has noted that certain media entities, including advertisement intermediaries and social media platforms, have been allowing direct and indirect advertisements of betting and gambling platforms during major sporting events, including cricket tournaments.

The Ministry has issued advisories to warn media platforms against publicizing betting/gambling platforms. The online advertisement intermediaries have also been advised not to target such advertisements towards the Indian audience.

Advisories were issued by the Ministry earlier as well  stating that betting and gambling was an illegal activity and hence advertisements/promotion of such activities directly or indirectly on any of the media platforms falls foul of the various statutes, including under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Press Council Act 1978, etc.

Furthermore, the recently amended rule 3 (1) (b) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 provides that intermediaries shall make reasonable efforts by itself, and to cause the users of its computer resource to not host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, store, update or share any information that “is in the nature of an online game that is not verified as a permissible online game; (x) is in the nature of advertisement or surrogate advertisement or promotion of an online game that is not a permissible online game, or of any online gaming intermediary offering such an online game;”