Centre bans over 230 illegal betting, gambling and loan apps

Last year in October, the centre issued a strict advisory against showcasing betting advertisements on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, such as Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, as well as private satellite TV platforms, stating that non-observance of the advisory may invite penal action under the applicable laws

Centre bans over 230 illegal betting, gambling and loan apps
Apps (Social Media)

The central government on Sunday banned over 230 illegal betting, gambling and loan applications, on 'emergency' basis, officials familiar with the matter said.

According to an official, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) banned 138 betting/gambling websites and apps and 94 loan apps, which "were engaging in illegal money laundering & were posing threat to the financial security of our nation," under section 69(A) of the IT Act.

 "The IT ministry has issued blocking orders based on emergency request issued by Nodal officer of ministry of home affairs (MHA)," said an official. Last year in October, the centre issued a strict advisory against showcasing betting advertisements on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, such as Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, as well as private satellite TV platforms, stating that non-observance of the advisory may invite penal action under the applicable laws.

According to the advisory issued by the central ministry, "In accordance with Paragraph 9 of the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements 2022 under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, it has been observed that since betting and gambling are illegal, advertisements of online offshore betting and gambling platforms are prohibited."

The ministry observed that promotional content and advertisements of betting platforms are still visible on certain news platforms and OTT platforms.

"Online offshore betting platforms have started using news websites as a surrogate product to advertise betting platforms on digital media," it observed.

According to an HT report in November last year, members of a high-level inter-ministerial task force (IMTF) set up by the government to chart rules and regulations for the online gaming sector have proposed that central legislation be explored to govern online gambling, a subject that has so far been regulated by the states themselves.

Submitted to the Prime Minister's Office in September, the report cites alarm raised globally – it notes the World Health Organization's (WHO) formal classification of gaming disorder as a disease in 2018 – and in India, where the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in 2021 outlined a long list of harms affected children suffer.

The scope of the IMTF, however, only covers online gaming i.e. games of skill (including real money), and the issues of online gambling have been excluded from its scope, since "betting & gambling" is a state subject.

At present, the gambling industry is covered under the ambit of the Public Gambling Act, 1867. The report underscores that this is old legislation which is incapable "of covering/defending/dealing with the various growing aspects of today's digital-based gaming activities and the emerging technologies associated with it."

The rationale behind seeking central legislation is also the inconsistency in the state's laws when it comes to online gambling.

Last year, the ministry banned 54 Chinese apps which posed threat to India's security. In June 2020, the government banned 59 apps and later blocked 47 related/cloning apps on August 10, 2020.

Later, 118 apps were blocked on September 1, 2020, and another 43 apps on November 19, the same year.