India govt. issues directives against online gambling ads ahead of cricket’s Asia Cup

India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued fresh guidelines against the advertisement of online gambling ahead of this year’s Asia Cup cricket league. The ministry has advised all media entities, online advertisement intermediaries, and social media platforms to immediately refrain from showing advertisements or any promotional content of online betting platforms in any form. Failure to follow the guidelines could likely lead to appropriate legal action by the government.

The move comes amid a key time in the sports calendar for cricket. While the Asia Cup is scheduled to start on August 31st, the Cricket World Cup is scheduled to begin on October 5th. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Hong Kong will tussle for the 14th Asia Cup trophy.

Addressing the media, the government advisory noted: “It is also observed that there is a tendency to spike promotion of such betting and gambling platforms during a major sporting event, especially cricket, and one such important international event is beginning in a few days from now.”

In its statement, the Ministry cited a recent government action against a network of agents who collected large sums of money from users of gambling apps and funneled it out of the country. It further explained that the mechanism has linkages to money laundering networks and poses a significant financial and socio-economic risk for consumers, especially youth and children, thereby threatening the country’s financial security. It also said that it is highly likely that black money is used to pay for such advertisements.

The government had issued similar advisories in June and October last year, and again in April this year before the Indian Premier League (IPL). These directives maintain that betting and gambling are illegal activities and, therefore, advertisement or promotion of such activities directly or indirectly on any media platform falls foul of the various statutes, including under the Consumer Protection Act and the Press Council Act. 

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules also warn against content that is in the nature of advertisement or promotion of an online game that is not permissible, or any intermediary offering such an online game.