ASCI on Tuesday introduced new guidelines to make real-money gaming advertising more transparent and safer
The guidelines will be effective from December 15, and apply to advertisements that are legally permitted.
Come December 15, it will no longer be an easy task for real money online game platforms to woo the Indian consumer. So far some of the platforms have been able to draw eyeballs through ads full of promises of winning a jackpot. “The online Rummy Federation (TORF) welcomes this initiative and sees this as a great move which will ensure that legitimate operators like our members who are certified can be clearly distinguished from fly by night operators who will now be forced to operate responsibly,” Sameer Barde, CEO, TORF told BrandWagon Online. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Tuesday introduced a set of guidelines for advertisements of online real-money gaming platforms. The guidelines have been developed to ensure that the advertisements make users aware about financial and other risks that are associated with playing online games with real money winnings. The guidelines will be effective from December 15, and apply to advertisements that are legally permitted.
According to the guidelines, no gaming advertisement may depict any person under the age of 18 years, or who appears to be under the age of 18, engaged in playing a game of online gaming for real money winnings, or suggest that such persons can play these games. Meanwhile, every gaming advertisement must carry a standard disclaimer stating, ‘This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk’. This is expected to be followed for all ads published across mediums including print, television and digital. Further, these ads should not present ‘online gaming for real money winnings’ as an income opportunity or an alternative employment option. The ad should also, in no way, suggest that a person engaged in gaming activity is in any way more successful as compared to others.
For Manisha Kapoor, secretary general, ASCI, the advertisements are in violation of ASCI code since the ads do not reveal the possibility of losing money and mislead individuals into believing that the platforms provide a source of extra income. “We have observed gaming advertisements target youth and families by suggesting that these can become sources of income and livelihood for them. The key fact that is completely suppressed in most of these advertisements is the real possibility of losing money. The frequent use of celebrities in many of these advertisements make them more attractive to consumers. Combined with the fact that these games are highly addictive, these advertisements end up being not just misleading, but also harmful to individuals and society,” she elaborated.
The Potential Impact of the Guidelines
As per Pranav Bagai, CEO and co-founder, Poker Sports League (PSL), while guidelines were long due and are essential, responsible gaming is imperative for long term growth and these guidelines can have adverse impact on sustainability of the industry, “The guidelines may affect our sponsorship revenue since most of our potential sponsors for PSL are real money gaming platforms,” he added.
Similarly, Barde believes that there will be a short-term impact but eventually it will help the industry move in the right direction, “This impact will be harder on businesses with weaker brand equity as the obvious call-outs of cash are done away with. In the mid-long run, we believe that it will lead to an improvement in the quality of users acquired as what will appeal to the user is the brand and the value proposition of a skill game and pure entertainment without the call-out of monies to be won,” he elaborated.
However, industry analysts believe that there will be no impact on the business on the back of these guidelines. “The guidelines may have no significant impact on acquisition of users. Most online gaming already use well known celebrities and users are hooked to their games. These new ASCI guidelines in a sense will have as much of an impact as the Mutual Fund ad disclaimer,” Lloyd Mathias, business strategist, stated.