Centre asks Google to stop publishing online betting ads

The Google app is seen on a smartphone. File
| Photo Credit: Reuters

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked Google to comply with its advisory to refrain from publishing or broadcasting advertisements of online betting platforms or any surrogate product depicting them.

The latest guideline was issued by the Ministry in October after it noted violations of a previous advisory in June 13, 2022, as some online offshore betting platforms had started using news websites as a surrogate product to advertise betting platforms on television channels.

The Consumer Affairs Department had also informed the Ministry that online betting platforms were advertising themselves as professional sports blogs, sports news websites, etc. while providing an indicative list of online betting platforms which were using news for surrogate advertising.

In view of the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements-2022 under the Consumer Protection Act, read with the Advertising Code under the Cable TV Network Regulation Act, advertisements of the news websites that were in fact surrogate promotions, did not appear to be in strict conformity with the laws, the Ministry had said.

Decision welcomed

The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has welcomed the Ministry’s decision for stringent advisories against offshore gambling advertisements. “While actions from MIB (Ministry of Information & Broadcasting) have substantially reduced this advertising on TV channels and OTTs, these anti-national platforms are still advertising heavily on all major social media platforms, online advertising platforms of big tech, and using major sports and entertainment personalities,” it said on Wednesday.

Federation’s chief executive officer Roland Landers: “In our opinion, one of the most problematic aspects of these offshore websites is how they promote and advertise their illegal products. They had been pushing incessant advertisements during telecasts of sporting events on TV channels and OTT platforms. Additionally, they have been using OOH, print and digital media along with sponsorships of sports teams across Indian leagues to further penetrate the psyche of the Indian consumer. We are even seeing prominent influencers with sports and entertainment backgrounds endorsing these products.”

He said according to reports, an estimated ₹3,500 crore was being spent by illegal offshore gambling websites on all forms of advertising. “If we also include sponsorships and influencer marketing, this number may jump to nearly ₹5,000 crore,” said Mr. Landers.

The AIGF, the apex industry body for online gaming in India, currently has more than 100 online gaming companies across e-sports, fantasy gaming, card games, casual gaming, and other formats as members, with a combined user base of over 400 million.

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