After a similar advisory in June, the ministry of information and broadcasting has once again advised news channels, digital news publishers and OTT platforms to not allow online betting advertisements.
Observing that betting and gambling are prohibited in most parts of the country, the ministry cited IT Rules, 2021, which prohibit advertisements of illegal activities by digital news publishers and streaming platforms, the advertising code under Cable TV Network Regulation Act, 1995, for TV channels, and guidelines on misleading advertisements under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
The ministry called out surrogate advertising on news websites by “online offshore betting platforms” and observed that logos on several news websites were “strikingly similar” to betting platforms. For instance, India Today’s YouTube channel Sports Tak runs a news show called “Breaking by Parimatch News”, Financial Express has an advertorial for FairPlay News while DafaNews has advertorials on Economic Times’ BrandEquity.
The ministry’s statement cites advertorial content on several platforms such as Outlook, News18.com, Punjab News Express, the Week and Financial Express. It also mentions 1xBet ads on Hotstar’s livestream of an Asia Cup match and advertisements from DailyHunt. Defaulting TV channels include Star Sports and Sony Six, which ran banner ads and carried logos of the betting platforms along with their own.
Online gambling is a much litigated subject in India. Most recently, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet approved an ordinance to ban online gambling in the state and is now awaiting the governor’s approval. This is despite the fact that the Madras High Court had earlier struck down a similar prohibition on online gambling activities such as rummy and poker. The Supreme Court has already issued a notice in Tamil Nadu’s petition challenging the high court judgement.
Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka have also sought to prohibit online gambling but the respective high courts have struck down legislation seeking such bans.