On 25th August 2023, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (“MIB”) issued an advisory to registered newspapers, private television channels, publishers of news and current affairs content on digital media, online advertisement intermediaries, and social media platforms asking them to refrain from publishing, broadcasting advertisements of online betting platforms and/or any such product/service depicting these platforms in a surrogate manner. This advisory was issued in addition to similar advisories issued earlier on 13th June 2022, 3rd October 2022, and 6th April 2023 by the MIB.
- The advisory highlighted the various acts and rules such as the Consumer Protection Act 2019, Press Council Act, 1978, and Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 which prohibit the advertisements/promotion of betting and gambling and any failure to comply with the advisory may compel the Government to resort to necessary legal measures as provided for under the relevant statutes.
- Furthermore, the advertisements related to gambling and betting platforms were posing significant financial, and socio-economic risks to consumers, particularly youth and children, while also having ties to money laundering networks, thereby threatening the country’s financial security.
- The advisory also noted the tendency to spike the promotion of betting and gambling platforms during major sporting events, especially cricket, in light of the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup being hosted in India.
- Lastly, the MIB urged all stakeholders, including media entities, online advertising intermediaries, and social media platforms, to promptly desist from displaying such advertisements or promotional materials in any manner whatsoever failing which legal action could be undertaken against such entities, platforms, etc.
There are adequate provisions under various laws to prohibit the surrogate advertisements of online betting platforms. Specifically, the “Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022” issued under the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 specifically prohibits surrogate or indirect advertising for goods or services that are restricted or prohibited by law.
Additionally, the Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising outlined in the Cable TV Network Regulation Act of 1995 explicitly forbids the broadcasting of advertisements on TV Channels, for betting platforms due to their association with illegal activities.
Several other regulations further reinforce the prohibition of advertising and promotion related to betting and gambling activities. The Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council, inter alia, mentions that newspapers should not publish an advertisement containing anything that is unlawful or illegal. Furthermore, in accordance with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, the advertisement of betting platforms being an illegal activity, cannot be published or transmitted by any publishers of news, current affairs content, and online curated content.
The advisory issued by the MIB is timely as the data from the International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health in 2020 revealed that 3.5 percent of Indian adolescents suffer from Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) which was above the global average. It is crucial to combat the growing prevalence of online gambling amongst the youth, as the same has detrimental impacts on their physical health, sleep patterns, and could potentially lead to social isolation leading to sleep deprivation, and mental health issues. In light of these concerns and recognizing the multifaceted harms of online gaming, the MIB’s advisory to caution relevant stakeholders against online betting and gambling advertisements is commendable as it prioritizes public welfare and the protection of vulnerable individuals, especially the youth, while emphasizing the importance of responsible advertising in the digital age.
This advisory serves as a reminder to all media entities, advertising intermediaries, and social media platforms to act in accordance with the law and ethical standards, contributing to a more responsible and secure online environment for all.
Link to Advisory on Advertisements including Surrogate Advertisements of Online Betting Platforms – https://mib.gov.in/sites/default/files/Advisory%20dated%2025.08.2023%20with%20enclosures.pdf
Link to the Research Article titled “Prevalence of internet gaming disorder in India: a technological hazard among adolescents” published in International Journal of Community Medicine And Public Health – https://www.ijcmph.com/index.php/ijcmph/article/view/5796/3736