Indian government orders media to stop betting ads or face penalties

With some small exceptions related to specific products in certain states, online betting is generally not legal in India.

However, the Ministry said that it had been made aware that a number of television sports channels, as well as streaming platforms, had been showing adverts for offshore betting sites such as Fairplay, Parimatch, Betway, Wolf 777 and 1xBet.

The Ministry said offshore betting websites have been using news websites as a “surrogate” product to advertise their betting platforms on digital media to consumers across India. In some cases, the Ministry said the logos of surrogate sites had a “striking resemblance” to the betting platforms

Neither the betting platforms nor the news websites, the Ministry said, are registered under any legal authority in India, and accused the sites of promoting betting and gambling under the garb of news as surrogate advertising.

As such, the Ministry issued two advisories, one to private television channels and the other to digital news publishers, encouraging them to withdraw gambling adverts. This followed a similar advisory issued in June, advising newspapers, private TV channels and digital news publishers to refrain from publishing online betting platform ads.

The latest advisories reiterate that since betting and gambling is illegal in most parts of the country, advertisements of these betting platforms and their surrogate sites are also illegal, in line with the Consumer Protection Act 2019, Cable TV Network Regulation Act 1995 and the IT Rules, 2021. 

The Ministry said the advertisements are not in conformity with related laws and strongly advised TV channels and digital news publishers from broadcasting such betting platforms or their surrogate news websites. Any violation of laws by TV channels, the Ministry said, could result in penal action. 

The Ministry has also advised online advertisement intermediaries to not target such ads towards Indian audience.

“The Ministry has mentioned that betting and gambling pose significant financial and socio-economic risk for the consumers, especially youth and children,” the Ministry said. “Accordingly, the promotion of offline or online betting/gambling through advertisements is not advised in larger public interest.”

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