Analysts are questioning an advisory handed out to media platforms last week, which requested national TV and radio outlets to cease advertising gambling companies.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued two advisories on Monday – they were as follows:
- Private television channels, digital news publishers, and over-the-top (OTT) platforms are asked to refrain from displaying any ads relating to online betting sites.
- Operators of the above mediums are also asked to ban surrogate advertisements linking to online gambling websites.
It is the second such advisory notice the MIB has released in a year – on June 13th, newspapers, private TV channels, and digital news publishers were asked to avoid advertising live casino India. However, repeat instances saw offshore betting platforms frequently feature in marketing material throughout the year.
The All Indian Gaming Federation (AIGF) welcomed the news.
CEO Roland Landers said in a statement: “We are grateful to the government for taking such a decisive step against illegal offshore gambling websites, which have been advertising in India in the garb of surrogate news and sports websites. The AIGF has been highlighting this menace since 2018 and has constantly been taking up these issues with various central ministries and also providing evidence of uninterrupted advertising on major Indian OTT and satellite channels.”
Opponents of the move believe it is yet another example of the Indian government cutting its nose to spite its face. Some analysts argue full regulation would have more far-reaching benefits than banning adverts completely.
Could Watershed Hours Be Introduced?
In countries like the United Kingdom, a consensus was reached that anyone under 18 should not be able to watch gambling advertisements before 9 pm.
A similar model could work in India – helping to keep advertising revenue flowing for media conglomerates while protecting those of a vulnerable age.
Experts believe this kind of pragmatism is required to find an agreement on the position of gambling in India.
Why Ban Isn’t The Answer
Many experts have long suggested that regulating the gambling industry is better than the rigmarole surrounding a total ban, partly due to the knock-on effects absolute prohibition would have on affiliated businesses.
National and regional media do not escape these impacts – banning online gambling companies is an immediate loss of revenue for the media landscape.
In a recent paper highlighting the benefits of a central, uniform government authority overseeing gambling in India, industry commentators ENV Media pointed to the massive tax revenue the Indian government is failing to capture. Profits are instead siphoned to illegal online bookmakers, which pose a great risk to bettors in India.
In their paper Sports Betting: India’s Favourite Invisible Giant, they argue:
“India is a particularly emblematic case of similarly impending regulatory needs. The prohibition of betting is widely seen to have been ineffective. In such contexts, certain authority recommendations cannot be overlooked. The Committee on Reforms in Cricket (in 2015), the Law Commission of India (in 2018), and recent court judgments (including by the Supreme Court) have suggested that betting should be regulated and taxed. In a nation with widespread illegal betting and gambling (reportedly worth well over $100bn annually), criminal activity has had the chance to flourish and continues to engage public resources and law-enforcement efforts. Emerging markets (India in particular but not only) will benefit from creating their own Central regulatory framework, a Gambling oversight body, and a Consumer Data protection regulation.”
Gambling remains a prevalent pastime for millions of Indian citizens – sites offering free cricket betting tips garner thousands of hits every day. The appetite is always there, but how do we prevent harmful habits from materialising in unsafe, unregulated environments?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the above article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ItsGoa.