The gaming sector has been on an upwards trajectory ever since the onset of the pandemic. As a sunrise industry therefore, the rules are still being set and advertising is one such area. As per the recent Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) report, gaming emerged as the most violative sector. Gaming at 15% pipped education at 13.8% to the top spot. “Stepping up our surveillance through AI-based tools and a robust complaint management system has ensured that ASCI is keeping pace with this dynamic environment. Updating our codes to reflect newer consumer concerns makes sure the ASCI codes remain contemporary. We will continue to act as the conscience keeper of the Indian ad industry with transparency and future-facing expertise,” NS Rajan, chairman, ASCI, said.
When contacted, brands including Dream11, MPL, PlayerzPot declined to comment.
According to the report, real money gaming was the most non-compliant sector for 2022-2023 with a compliance rate of 46%. Over 50% of required modifications as it had not complied with the Consumer Complaints Council recommendations and have been forwarded to relevant regulatory authorities for further action in accordance with the laws for consumer protection.
Inorder to clear ambiguity, the government recently created rules which clearly sets operating standards for online gaming companies. The registration of the online gaming intermediaries with the self-regulated bodies shall be dependent on continuous compliance with the due-diligence requirement with respect to advertisements. “The implementation of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules 2023 will help solve this issue as self-regulation regime will bring about a positive change. One of the due-diligence obligations under amendment rules is for the online gaming intermediaries to ensure that there is no advertisement or surrogate advertisement of online games that are not permissible online games as per the rules,” Asish Philip, partner, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, said.
As per these new rules, the government has set a clear distinction between online betting and gambling and other genres of games. Under the guidelines, self regulatory organisation (SRB or SRO) appointed by the government would be allowed to rely on information furnished by the applicant initially. Following this, the SRB or SRO can declare the game as a permissible online real money game for three months. Once permitted, online games are required to register for which the SRO is required to complete the inquiry within three months. As per the new ruling, the SRO may suspend operations or registration of an online game, if it fails to meet the guidelines during the process of verification. The rules further state the SROs or SRBs will have to maintain a list of games verified by it and its members. SRO post verification can declare a particular format of real money online game to operate, post clarification that it does not involve wagering on any outcome.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcast had issued numerous advisories to caution against advertising or using promotional content for betting or gambling platforms. A recent advisory issued cautioned newspapers, television channels as well as online news publishers to refrain from advertising betting or gambling platforms. “When illegal offshore betting and gambling products are visible, the online gaming industry suffers significantly due to the misconstrued association. It’s critical for ASCI to understand different models to make more qualified, informed, and proactive initiatives to curb illegal businesses from advertising all channels including newspapers, autorickshaws, housing societies, or out homes instead of painting legal online gaming companies with the same brush as offshore and illegal betting and gambling companies,” Saumya Singh Rathore, co-founder, WinZO Games, explained.
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