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At a time when the real-money online gaming industry is fighting for its rights in the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has come down heavily against illegal offshore betting sites promoting themselves to Indian players.
After announcing that 25 such illegal sites would be banned under the Information Technology Act, 2000 for alleged GST evasion and FEMA violation, the Ministry has enacted on the threat by blocking sites like Fairplay, Betway, Dafabet, Pari Match, Wolf777, and 1xbet on networks like Jio and Vodafone. Due to network propagation and other logistic issues, other networks may take time to implement MEITY orders.
The move comes barely two weeks after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued an advisory on the advertisement of online betting platforms. In the advisory, the MIB said such sites pose significant financial and socio-economical risks for consumers, especially youth and children, and asked private television channels, digital news publishers, and OTT platforms to refrain from showing online gaming sites and surrogate advertisements.
In compliance with the advisory, Sony ended its year-long contract with Parimatch, while Star Network decided to do a compliance audit.
Various offshore gaming establishments offering gambling services have been under the strict vigilance of the government, including the Philippines-based online portal Dafabet. Earlier this month, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) apprehended the directors of Betrue Ecom Solutions Ltd for involvement in illegal online sports betting and gambling in cahoots with Dafasports.
To reign in these illegal online betting platforms, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) on Wednesday, October 19, sent show-cause notices to six online betting apps for violating advertising norms. According to multiple people familiar with the development, the CCPA has alleged that the six online betting apps misled consumers by issuing surrogate advertisements on news platforms.
Interestingly, within 24 hours of the MEITY crackdown, FairPlay, which had become inaccessible, changed its domain name to bypass the restriction. The illegal website emailed the users about the change in the domain name.
Such a change in domain names to bypass ban restrictions is not new. Piracy and illegal streaming websites often change domain names to bypass bans. But when compared to illegal gambling websites, piracy websites don’t rely on banking systems to continue their operations.
In light of the significant financial and socio-economic risk for consumers, especially youth and children, the central government has been working proactively to eradicate all illegal offshore sites.
In a release, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) notified that offshore websites spend nearly ₹3,500 Crores on advertisements and promotions, another ₹500 Crores on celebrities and influencers to endorse their platforms, making for around ₹4,000 Crores in total spends annually.