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TORF asked to remove or change ad claiming rummy websites have ‘no bots’

Playing Cards Gambling

The Advertising Standards Council of India has directed The Online Rummy Federation to either remove or change an ad claiming that online rummy sites certified by it do not have any bots. The Council has concluded that this claim is “inadequately substantiated and is misleading by exaggeration”, ordering that it be changed or removed by March 30. 

This is the second TORF ad that the Council has asked to be changed. Last month, the Council had directed the body to change a print ad about online rummy that violated guidelines on real money gaming ads.

The ad in question this time depicts an adult man frustrated at repeatedly losing online rummy games,  believing that he’s being defeated by bots. Then the winner shows up and admits that he’s been defeating the person all along, stating that rummy websites certified by TORF do not have any bots. The ad goes on to say that TORF members are required to verify themselves by submitting an identification proof.

Vishal Gondal, CEO of wearables company GOQii who also backs nCore Games, had complained to ASCI, arguing that TORF’s claims of ‘no bots’ cannot be authenticated as it is owned by the very rummy companies it is defending in the ad. There is no third-party or independent verification of the presence of bots, he had complained. Gondal had also complained about the disclaimers for underaged players, the ad treating rummy as a source of livelihood, and other issues. MediaNama has reviewed copies of the Gondal’s complaint and ASCI’s decision. 

The Online Rummy Federation is a “self-regulatory” body for online rummy, with RummyCircle.com, JungleRummy, Paytm First Games, and Mobile Premier League among its nine members. According to its website, it has ‘certified’ five of its members. The Federation’s defense of the ad was that all winnings by players are are subject to TDS (tax deducted at source), and GST is paid on all revenue earned from players as per law. However, bots are not legal entities so cannot make payments, place withdrawals to their bank account and do any other transaction.   

Claim of no bots needs user verification, independent officer’s certification

In ASCI’s view, TORF has indeed built-in “maximum possible safeguards” to regulate online rummy, particularly as a nascent industry. However, the technical claim that the game has no bots “would require a strict verification procedure” of the players “to ensure that indeed there are no bots operating” on any of TORF’s members’ platforms. Giving such certification will require verification from an independent Chief Information Security Officer’s (CISO) that bots “cannot be managed by the operating platforms as a substantiation document”.

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In addition, TORF’s claim that “Torf hai toh safer hai” is also misleading, since it rested on the claim of the platform having no bots.

Apart from this, the Council also concluded that TORF complied with guidelines on real money gaming ads, since it did carry disclaimers on financial risk and addiction and did not depict any children in the ad. It also did not present playing online rummy as a source of revenue.

Most gaming ads pulled for violating advertising code 

In early February, ASCI disclosed that over half of all complaints it received against gaming ads resulted in the advertiser pulling the ad for violating the code. Out of complaints against 81 ads, 42 were removed after the ASCI intervened, and another two ads were eventually found to be violating the guidelines. At the time, ASCI was awaiting explanation from the advertisers on the remaining 37 ads. Most of the complaints pertained to ads about cricket (55 ads) and rummy (15 ads).

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