In this article, the author provides an insight of the legal aspect of advertising online gaming in India, including the guidelines issued by the ASCI regarding such advertisement.
Several guidelines were issued by the Advertising Standards Council of India (“ASCI”) effective from December 15, 2020 for advertisers concerning Online Gaming, which claims for winning of real money by playing such online games. (real-money online gaming).
Preliminarily a consultation was made amongst the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and various other stakeholders like ASCI, All India Gaming Federation, Online Rummy Federation, etc.
After the consultation, MIB came up with an advisory that the Private TV Channels will have to ensure that any of such advertisements appearing on their channels must adhere to these latest guidelines issued by the ASCI.
There are two key aspects of the new guidelines, with respect to real-money online gaming:
- Addictive nature of such games
- Financial risks associated with such games
Gambling and Betting is prohibited in India by the virtue of Central as well as State legislations. However, Public Gambling Act, 1867, which is a Central Law, excludes games which require skill. There are several Judicial precedents which establish that online fantasy sports require skills and use of knowledge.
However, various Indian States like Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Orissa, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu restrict the practice of Online Gaming requiring skills or which are based on chances.
The State of Assam and Orissa have no Laws which expressly exclude Online Games requiring skill from the purview of restrictions. The State of Telangana however, has an express prohibition on the practice of online games requiring skills. The State of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh brought up amendments to their laws, which now restrict such games. The States of Sikkim and Nagaland require relevant licenses to permit such online gaming.
MIB’s advisory seeks broadcasters to abstain from advertising any content which is prohibited by the law. This will lead to total prohibition of advertising of real-money online games in the above enlisted States. However, there are no punitive measures or penalty in the guidelines in case they are violated.
Recently, Niti Aayog has also published a report “Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms” which proposes the establishment of a self-regulatory body for such online sports.
- The Guidelines ask the advertisers to put a disclaimer on such sports-related advertisements. It is read as “This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk.”
- If an advertisement is in print or static format, then the disclaimer should at least occupy 20% of the advertisement space. The disclaimer should be in the same language and font. It shall not be in italics and it should be in the same direction as the majority of the text, and be prominent and legible.
- If an advertisement is in audio-visual format, then the disclaimer should be placed at normal speaking speed at the end of the advertisement. It should be in the same language as the advertisement and finally, the disclaimer should be in both the audio and visual format
- Advertisements should not propose such gaming as a source of income.
- Guidelines suggest that advertisements should not compare any person playing the game as being successful compared to others.