The ASCI (Advertisements Standards Council of India) via its press release dated November 24, 2020, introduced Guidelines on Online Gaming Advertisements (herein after referred as 'Guidelines') to provide a streamlined regulatory framework.
On December 04 2020, The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had issued an advisory, in pursuance of the Guidelines, to inform all television channel networks regarding the same. As per the advisory notice, advertisements on online gaming, fantasy sports etc., appear to be misleading and non-conforming with the Advertising Code laid down under Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
According to ASCI, gaming advertisements have been targeting youth and families suggesting online gaming as a source of income. Since online gaming requires inclusion of monetary funds, it entails various elements of risk which may result in financial losses. Further, gaming advertisements completely suppress any possibility of financial losses. Hence, a standardized guideline was required for all online gaming platforms to address the addictive nature as well as create awareness of financial risks in these advertisements.
In view of the advisory notice and reasoning, the ASCI proposed certain guidelines to ensure transparency in advertisements by online gaming platforms and protection of consumers which have been in effect from December 15, 2020.1
ASCI GUIDELINES ON ADVERTISEMENTS ON ONLINE GAMING
- There shall not be depiction of any person under the age of 18 or who appears to be a minor, being engaged in playing online gaming for real money winnings in any gaming advertisements. Similarly, no gaming advertisement shall suggest that such person can play these games as well. Hence, prohibiting depiction of minors on gaming advertisements.
- Every gaming advertisement must carry the following disclaimer:
'This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk'
- For print/static advertisements, the disclosure shall occupy at least 20% of the space in the advertisement, contain same language and font, not be in italics and shall be in the same direction as the majority of the text.
- For audio/video advertisements, the disclaimer shall be placed in normal speaking pace at the end of the advertisement, contain same language as the advertisement and needs to in both audio and visual formats
- No advertisement shall present 'online gaming for real money winnings' as an income opportunity or an alternative employment option.
- No advertisement shall portray that the person engaged in 'online gaming for real money winnings' is more successful than compared to others. Hence, prohibiting the portrayal of comparison of success through such games.
The Guidelines issued by ASCI shall ensure the benefit of the viewers and conformity of the Advertising Code. Since, online gaming industry is growing rapidly in India, it is important for a framework of Guidelines to exist for regulation and public welfare. A proposal for self-regulation body for online gaming industry has also been mentioned in NITI Ayog's draft report on 'Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-Level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India'.2 The Guidelines shall increase transparency and create a safer environment for the consumers.
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