Amid its ongoing crackdown on illegal online gambling websites and games that operate from outside Indian borders, the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has ordered Google to stop showing advertisements leading to such websites and apps to users in India.
Previously, the MIB had ordered television broadcasters and video streaming services that showed ads to drop the advertisements of such firms. Platforms like YouTube and Google, however, still showed such ads.
Although online gambling is banned in many states in India, several betting platforms and apps have been able to circumvent prosecution based on the fact that their servers are based outside the country. These firms also benefit from having no physical presence in India.
The Centre is concerned that many of these betting platforms, which seem legitimate, have had their functionalities rigged to make users addicted to the forum. Many Indian citizens have fallen prey to such media and have lost significant money to these platforms.
A representative of the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said that a letter was sent to Google India last week, which ordered the search giant to drop all sorts of advertising immediately, whether surrogate or direct, directly to these betting platforms.
The ministry has concluded that such betting sites pose significant financial and socio-economic risks for consumers, especially youth and children.
According to estimates by the All India Gaming Federation or AIGF, over Rs 5,000 crores is being deposited in the accounts of multiple agents of these companies in India every month, with no clarity of where exactly the money is being routed.
Most of these platforms have online advertisement intermediaries that place these ads on Google’s search results and blogs and news websites under the section where they show bulk ads. Earlier, the ministry had “strongly advised” TV channels and digital news publishers to refrain from broadcasting ads from such betting platforms or their surrogate news websites, reminding TV channels that violation may invite penal action. The ministry had also advised online advertisement intermediaries not to target such advertisements at Indians.
These ads may also violate the guidelines on online gaming issued by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which set out the best practices for advertisements of online gaming. AIGF, lobbying against these offshore betting companies, pointed out that the most problematic aspect of these offshore websites is how they promote and advertise their illegal products.