Ads for offshore betting apps concerning, says watchdog

New Delhi: As the scrutiny on betting apps and links to well-known celebrities widens, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has red-flagged the matter, reinforcing that such advertising needs to be clamped down.

“Betting is illegal in many parts of India and therefore it follows that its advertising too is not permitted. The problem of offshore betting ads featuring prominent Indian celebrities and being shown to Indian audiences is concerning,” Manisha Kapoor, CEO of ASCI, told ET on Tuesday.

A dozen well-known names and influencers including actors Ranbir Kapoor, who is associated with the ongoing Mahadev betting scam, Kajal Aggarwal, Kiara Advani, Suniel Shetty and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, rapper Badshah, and sport stars Sanjay Manjrekar, Mithali Raj and Saina Nehwal have been associated with or featured in ads for betting various websites, apps and surrogate news sites. These include Parimatch, FairPlay, Betway, Khelraja and Wolf 777, among others.

While Kapoor, Advani, Raj and Nehwal have been visible faces advertising for Fairplay, actor Esha Gupta promotes online betting app Khelraja, and reality show MTV Roadies star Rannvijay Singh Singha and English cricket commentator Kevin Pietersen advertise for Betway.

“The ministry of information & broadcasting has also been issuing advisories, while ASCI too has escalated such ads including surrogate ads of betting companies for action by the government,” Kapoor said.

Betting apps like Lotus365, for example, show actors Govinda, Sunil Shetty and Tejasswi Prakash on social media. This comes despite Lotus 365 being banned in the country in February 2023 by the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY). Such apps still manage to operate, since their domains are banned, and they start operating from surrogate domains.Comedian Kapil Sharma, actors Huma Qureshi and Hina Khan, too, have been questioned in connection with the Mahadev betting app money laundering probe, on allegations that they have promoted the app.The ministry for consumer affairs, food & public distribution has said offshore betting companies advertising in India is illegal, and the information and & broadcasting ministry too prohibited online betting ads and surrogates on all platforms including television and digital, and called on television channels and online publishers to stop showing such ads which could cause “significant financial and socio-economic risk for consumers”.

Now a lot of such advertising is visible on social media platforms like Instagram.

All such advertising is in violation of the existing Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA). Further, according to existing ASCI guidelines, gambling ads should not be misleading or deceptive and not target children or vulnerable groups. According to Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act 2019 and the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022, endorsers associated with illegal advertisements without due diligence are liable to face penalties of ₹10-50 lakh, or be banned from endorsements for one-three years.


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