New ASCI guidelines on online betting ads: A welcome move for Indian gaming industry?
With these guidelines in place, the Indian gaming brands will get more clarity on what can or cannot be included in the ad content. It will also push for a more creative approach to ads, say experts
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), under the aegis of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, has been on a reform streak. Its latest advisory, released earlier this week, against ads promoting online betting websites/platforms in print, electronic and digital media is the latest instance of the administration’s efforts to check the significant financial and socio-economic risks it poses to the consumers of India.
The move has been welcomed by the Indian gaming sector, which is expected to become a US $5 billion (approx. Rs 3,90,000 crore) industry by 2025 and is easily outpacing other forms of media and entertainment.
Jay Sayta, a Technology and Gaming Lawyer, explains, “The advisory issued by the I&B Ministry is targeted towards foreign online gambling and betting websites and their surrogates that were blatantly advertising through print, electronic and digital media illegally in contravention of state and central laws. The advisory merely clarifies the legal position that print, electronic and social media should refrain from advertising online gambling/betting websites.”
This advisory will not apply to domestic online 'real money skill gaming' operators such as poker, rummy, and fantasy sports websites that are incorporated in India and comply with the laws of the land, he added. According to Satya, the skill-based gaming websites have been held to be legal and outside the scope of gambling/betting by several court judgments. “Thus, this advisory will affect only the rogue operators, largely foreign websites, and will not impact domestic real money gaming companies," he says.
Indian gaming companies, which have long been arguing the difference between ‘games of skill’ and ‘games of chance’, have found this new list of Do’s and Don’ts as a welcome reference point. Apart from prohibitions on advertising by online betting platforms, there are also prohibitions on advertisements featuring people younger than 18 years of age. Moreover, the guidelines stipulated that print, static, audio and video should state that this game involves an 'implement rise' that may be addictive; please play responsibly and at your own risk.
According to Abhishek Aggarwal, Co-Founder and CEO, Trinity Gaming India, "We work strongly in the casual and skilled gaming space with domestic and major International players wherein we don't see any negative impact in the space as they abide by the local government's regulations. However, this new advisory will definitely impact players who specifically work in the betting platform space with their marketing mandates to attract Indian users, their advertising and publicity budgets and strategy.”
Roland Landers, CEO, The All India Gaming Federation said, in a statement, “We are delighted to see our persistent efforts against offshore gambling platforms come to fruition and would like to thank the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for initiating this step. In the last seven years, The All India Gaming Federation the apex industry body for the sunrise online gaming sector has been solely working towards creating awareness regarding the issue and pointing out that several offshore gambling websites are openly and brazenly advertising online gambling through TV Channels, Internet, social media, hoardings and other digital media platforms. Furthermore, AIGF has been continuously engaging with various government stakeholders to educate them about the ills of illegal gambling and the perils of allowing foreign gambling websites to continue unabated while urging for a regulatory framework for online skill gaming in India to realise Honourable PMO’s vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.”
Agencies are also celebrating the move. Siddharth Devnani, Co-Founder & Director, SoCheers, says, “With the fast-paced popularity and success that the fantasy sport and online betting platforms have been amassing lately, I think that these ASCI guidelines are a welcome move from the ad fraternity. They'll help reinforce what can and cannot be included in the ad content and the brands can get a lot more clarity of thought on where to draw the line. Apart from addressing the base concerns, this will also push for a more creative approach to advertising from the brands.”
As for Akshae Golekar, Founder & CEO, Optiminastic Media, “The government has circulated the advisory to ensure that guidelines set by ASCI are being followed, as many agencies are promoting online betting without following the guidelines. This has profited the betting platforms, which eventually grew to micro and now mega influencers. They have also advised the platforms and channels to not target Indian audiences with these advertisements, which I feel is a right move to make sure that the right information using technology and social media is being circulated to the audiences."
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