The Information & Broadcasting Ministry on Monday said that news websites, private TV channels and OTT platforms should refrain from broadcasting ads of online betting platforms and surrogate news websites that promote such platforms. It added that failure to do so can invite penal action.

The Ministry had first issued an advisory in this regard in June as betting platforms pose significant financial and socio-economic risk for consumers.

In its fresh advisory on Monday, the Ministry said it has observed that the promotional content and advertisements of betting platforms was still visible on certain news sites as well as OTT platforms. “It has also come to the notice of this Ministry that some online offshore betting platforms have started using news websites as a surrogate product to advertise their betting platforms on TV channels,” it stated. The advisory was sent to TV channels, publishers of news and current affairs content on digital media and online curated content platforms.

In its advisory, the Ministry pointed to instances of promotional content of betting platforms such as Parimatch, Fair Play, IxBet and Rajabets found on digital platforms.

Surrogate news sites

The Ministry observed that logos of surrogate news websites being run by online betting platforms are “strikingly similar” to the betting platforms. The betting platforms and their surrogate news websites are not registered with any “legal authority”, it added.

“The online offshore betting platforms appear to be promoting betting and gambling under the garb of news as surrogate advertising. In this regard, the Department of Consumer Affairs has also informed that online betting platforms have been advertising themselves as professional sports blogs, sports news websites, etc. while providing an indicative list of online betting platforms which are using news for surrogate advertising,” the Ministry noted in its latest advisory.

The Ministry reiterated that since betting and gambling are illegal activities in most parts of India, advertisements of online offshore betting and gambling platforms are also illegal.

It also stated that in ads of new websites, which are, in fact, surrogate advertisements for online betting platforms, do not conform to the provisions of Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

“The online news websites, private TV channels and OTT platforms are strictly to refrain from broadcasting advertisements of online betting platforms and/or their surrogate news websites or any such product/service depicting these platforms in a surrogate manner. The online advertisement intermediaries are also advised not to target such advertisements towards the Indian audience,” the Ministry stated.

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