Gambling sites air TV commercials despite being illegal

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18 July 2020: Like many other countries, gambling is yet to be legalized in India. However, what bothers most people is how we still see gambling advertisements on TV. How is this even possible?


Famous TV ads for gambling sites

One of those gambling sites that has launched popular TV adverts is PokerStars. The site which is operated by Sachiko Gaming launched India’s first-ever poker advert on TV. The adverts feature popular Bollywood star, Nawazzuddin Siddiqui.


Three different TV commercials were released in March 2019, each with a different narrative. The commercials challenge the audience to figure out whether Nawaz is bluffing or not. One of the commercials features Nawaz trying to use a poker chip as money, another follows him taking a role inspired by James bond. The last one sees him analyzing different people’s behavior in a cafe. The commercials show the different skills needed to play Poker and encourage viewers to visit the site.


The same site, PokerStars, launched another campaign with Nawaz in August 2019. The campaign tagged “MadeForPoker” comprised of three different adverts. It was designed to show that everyone has some skills of poker in them and that they can use poker skills in their everyday life. All three adverts focus on life skills such as making important decisions, staying calm, and keeping a poker face.


Delta Corporation, the owners of Adda52 Rummy, one of the most trusted Rummy apps in India, also revealed how they make use of television and media ads. In March 2020, the marketing head of the company, Ashish Bhakuni, revealed how Adda52 rummy spends 30 percent of its total marketing budget on media like TV adverts and prints.


What are the rules for advertising gambling?

Despite online casino games representing a big part of gambling in India, online casinos are not allowed to advertise their services in India as they offer games that are considered games of chance. India’s gambling law permits only games of skill in the country.


However, even the advertisement for games of skill is still regulated. The regulation is based on specific laws like the Indian Contract Act 1872, the Public Gambling Act 1867, the Lotteries Regulation Act 1998, and the Indian Penal Code 1860.


The laws make it clear that indirect advertisement for gambling is prohibited. This means there must be no direct or indirect reference to the prohibited products in the advertisement. It also means that the visual content of the advertisement must in no form depict the restricted product (games of chance).


The advertisement by PokerStars for example encourages the development of real-life skills rather than promoting the act of gambling.


What are the rules for advertising lotteries?

The Lotteries Regulation Act provides the basis for organizing lotteries in the country. It gives the power to the State governments to choose whether to prohibit or allow lotteries in their jurisdiction. Also, the Act regulates the manner for conducting lotteries and prescribes penalties in cases of breach. Any lottery not authorized by the state is considered an offense under the penal code.


According to the rules guiding the advertisement of lotteries, the advertisements must not be in any form that will exploit consumers or take advantage of their lack of knowledge and experience. It is prohibited to make exaggerated claims in adverts which can result in consumer’s disappointment.


According to the ASCII Code, adverts inviting the public to partake in lotteries or prize competitions permitted under the law must clearly state all material conditions. This will enable consumers to obtain a true and fair view of what they can gain or lose in such activities.