More ads by online real-money gaming brands have come under the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) scanner which has screened hundreds of such ads against potential violations of its guidelines.
The ad regulator's guidelines for online real money gaming advertisements had come into effect in December 2020 and since then ASCI has examined 536 ads related to 99 brands, said ASCI's CEO, Manisha Kapoor.
"We've seen a maximum number of violations in the digital medium," she added.
The ad body April this year also pointed out violations by online gaming advertisements during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022. It had screened 35 ads on TV from the online gaming category during the first week of the IPL 15 which is the period between March 26 to April 3 and had identified 14 ads that were in potential violation of its code.
Brands including Mobile Premier League (MPL), Junglee Rummy, My11Circle, Gamezy, Betway, and Fairplay had come under ASCI's scrutiny for not complying with its guidelines.
Kapoor said that ASCI’s guidelines are very clear when it comes to the violation of its code with regards to online real-money gaming ads. "The code says that advertisements should not be aimed at minors, not present gaming as a possible source of livelihood, or link it to success. The guidelines also require the ads to carry a disclaimer about a risk of financial loss and the fact that the games are addictive in nature," she said.
When it comes to the action ASCI takes in case of non-compliance, Kapoor said that they write to the advertiser and once they hear back from them within the stipulated time, the Consumer Complaints Council reviews the ads and the response and makes its recommendations. "In case the brands do not modify or withdraw ads that are found to be objectionable, ASCI escalates the same to government regulators," she said.
The ASCI head also highlighted that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has included the ASCI guidelines as part of The Advertising Code enshrined in The Cable Television and Networks (Regulation) Act. "Hence, a violation of the ASCI code is also a violation of the Act," said Kapoor.
In March this year, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur informed Lok Sabha that over 117 complaints related to online real money gaming were processed by ASCI from January 2021 to 2022.
Two months after the guidelines for online real-money gaming ads had come into effect, ASCI had taken action against 81 ads of online gaming platforms out of which in 15 cases, advertisers withdrew ads voluntarily. In 27 cases, advertisers removed ads after the complaint was lodged and in two cases while advertisers contested the objections, the complaints were upheld as the advertisers had violated the ASCI guidelines.
Maximum complaints that ASCI had received were for ads featuring on digital platforms like Instagram and YouTube.
Ads by online real-money gaming brands including rummy, poker, and fantasy sports had come under the scanner for their misleading nature which put the consumers at risk, the ad regulator had said.
In addition, a large number of online gaming brands have taken to TV and digital to reach out to consumers through advertisements.
"While big advertisers include brands like Dream11, if you see the regional spaces as well as tier-II digital properties, there are nearly 100 players jostling for space, spending a decent amount of money on ads," said Ambarish Ray, Co-Founder & CEO of Digital Dogs Content and Media.
It is estimated that online gaming firms spent Rs 1,400 crore on advertising last year.
With the gaming category expected to increase ad spends across TV and digital, ASCI has its task cut out to ensure brands comply with its guidelines for online real-money gaming ads.