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New rules for real money gaming ads require disclaimers, cannot depict children

Paytm cricket

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has introduced government-backed guidelines for real-money gaming ads, days after the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting met with industry participants about gaming ads on television channels. Beginning mid-December, all advertisements about real-money gaming or services will have to carry disclaimers about financial risks and addiction, among other things. Further, the ads cannot depict children as playing these or present real-money gaming as an income opportunity or employment option. 

The guidelines have the “full support and backing” of the government, including by the I&B Ministry, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, and the Department of Consumer Affairs, ASCI said in a statement. ASCI is a self-regulatory body for ads, overseeing the industry via codes.  

The guidelines were prompted by the “real danger of negative impacts of real-money gaming ads,” ASCI said. Such ads depict real-money gaming as sources of income, but suppress the “real possibility of losing money.” Celebrities appearing in ads can make the services more attractive, and “consumers tend to trust their heroes and role models blindly.” They violate the ASCI code as they are highly addictive, misleading, and end up harming individuals and society. 

The idea of framing specific guidelines for advertisement of such games is to inform advertisers as well as members of the public what criteria we will use to scrutinize advertisements against which we receive complaints. While the government will take a decision on the legal issues surrounding the sector, we believe these advertising guidelines will make the online gaming for real money winnings more transparent and safer. We are particularly happy with the wholehearted support and backing of the government to ASCI in implementing these guidelines, and this is yet another demonstration of the belief in the strength of self-regulation. We hope that these guidelines will usher in an era of more responsible and truthful advertising in this sector.” — Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI [emphasis ours]

It’s worth noting that Kapoor was invited to the I&B Ministry’s meeting on gaming ads on TV held last week.

Fantasy gaming, which includes real-money prizes, aided by the pandemic, gained more eyeballs than ever in this edition of the Indian Premier League. While Dream11 sponsored the League this year, numerous players endorsed several fantasy gaming services. Indian Cricket Team Captain Virat Kohli promotes Mobile Premier League (MPL) and Sourav Ganguly is the brand ambassador of My11Circle. Ganguly is also the current president of the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), the highest body for cricket administration. Former captain MS Dhoni is the brand ambassador of Dream11, while Sachin Tendulkar promotes Paytm First Games, a fantasy gaming services operated by Paytm.

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The following are the guidelines, which come into effect on December 15, 2020:

  1. Gaming ads cannot depict anyone below 18 years or who appears to be below 18 years as playing a game of “online gaming for real money winnings” or suggest that such persons can play these games 
  2. Print or static ads need to display a disclaimer, occupying at least 20% of the ad, that the game involves financial risk and may be addictive, and that it should be played responsibly and at the player’s own risk. The disclaimer should be compliant with ASCI’s guidelines. 
  3. Such disclaimers will have to be said in a normal speaking pace at the end of the ad and must be the same language as the ad. 
  4. Real-money gaming cannot be presented as an income opportunity or employment option, it should be suggested that a person who plays real-money gaming is more successful than others. 

Also read: I&B Ministry to hold meeting on online gaming TV ads

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