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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued a notice on June 13, 2022 to print media, private satellite TV channels and digital media to refrain from advertising for online betting platforms/websites (Notices).
In December 2020, the MIB had issued a notice to all private satellite television stations to comply with the online gaming guidelines issued by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI Online Gaming Guidelines). ASCI’s online gambling guidelines have been released amid increased frequency of television advertisements promoting online gambling, fantasy sports and inadequate disclaimers warning consumers the risks associated with it.
The ASCI Online Gambling Guidelines state the following guidelines:
- Age Restriction: Ads must not depict anyone under the age of 18 (eighteen), or anyone who appears to be under the age of 18 (eighteen), playing online games to win real money or suggest that these people can play these games.
- Disclaimer: Every online gambling advertisement must carry the disclaimer that “This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk.” in accordance with the following specifications:
- Imprint / Static Disclaimer: The disclaimer must: (a) occupy at least 20% of the ad space; (b) be in the same language as the advertisement; (c) be in the same font as the advertisement or a sans serif font and not in italics; (d) be in the direction of the majority of the copy, except in the case of small packages (eg, packaging of less than 25 ml/grams); and (e) be in a color that contrasts with the background and not in a way that continues to fade in and out of view, to ensure legibility and legibility.
- Audio/Video Disclaimer: The disclaimer should be placed at the end of the advertisement in a normal speaking rhythm and be in the same language as the advertisement. In In the case of audio-visual media, the disclaimer must be in both audio and visual formats.
- No description as income opportunity: Advertising must not present “online gambling for real money” as an income opportunity/another employment option or suggest that someone engaged in gambling activities is more successful than others .
Going a step further than ASCI’s online gambling guidelines, the notice completely bans advertising from online betting platforms in India. Print, electronic, online and social media, including online advertising intermediaries and publishers, may no longer publish, display or target Indian audiences with such advertisements.
The MIB notes in the notice that betting and gambling are illegal in most parts of the country and that online betting platform advertisements therefore promote a largely illegal activity that poses financial risks. and socio-economic factors important to consumers, especially young people and children. The notice comes following advertisements from online betting platforms which were shown during the streaming of the India-Australia ODI series in 2020 and the UEFA European Football Championship in 2021.
The MIB has observed that adverts from online betting platforms currently appear to be misleading and do not appear to comply with the Consumer Protection Act 2019, the Advertising Code under the Satellite Television Networks Act 1995 Cable (Regulation) and Advertising Standards under the Journalistic Standards of Conduct published under the Press Council Act 1978, which generally provide that advertisements must not be misleading and must not misrepresent warranty as to the nature, substance or quality of a product/service, must not deliberately conceal material information and must not advertise products/services prohibited by law.
Although the notice refers to ASCI’s Online Gaming Guidelines published in December 2020 with respect to advertisements from online gaming platforms, the prohibition under the notice only extends to: to online betting and gaming platforms and not to online games. As such, online games of skill and fantasy sports, the legality of which is determined by state-specific laws, will not fall under the ban.
In addition, the notice is directed to newspapers registered under the Press and Book Registry Act 1867, private satellite television stations and publishers of news and current affairs content on digital media. It also refers to online and social media, including online advertising intermediaries and publishers not to display advertisements in relation to online betting platforms.
Although the notice is not specifically directed at publishers of online curated content, in our view it is unlikely that the MIB’s intention is to exclude publishers of online curated content from the scope of the opinion. As such, publishers of curated online content may consider complying with the advisory until further clarification from the MIB.
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