CHENNAI: When Deepak Hooda was dismissed for three against Sri Lanka at the Asia Cup on Tuesday, the over-the-top arm of the Indian broadcaster showed an ad of a betting company. 1xBet. It appeared as a pop-up on the bottom of the screen. Underneath the logo were the words 'professional sportsblog'.
On the right extreme of the pop-up ad was World Cup winner Yuvraj Singh, who has been promoting the company's 'professional sports blog' on Twitter since last December. That, of course, wasn't the only instance of 1xBet being shown on the OTT platform.
It made several appearances during the Asia Cup and during the fifth Test between India and England earlier this year. Suresh Raina, too, has been promoting the brand's 'professional sportsblog' on his Twitter handle (the 'professional sportsblog' is a surrogate).
What's significant about the Asia Cup is that it's the first instance of a betting company as well as the OTT in question veering away from an advisory that was issued by the ministry of Information and Broadcasting in June. "... advertisements of online betting are misleading, and do not appear to be in strict conformity with the Consumer Protection Act 2019, Advertising Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995, and advertisement norms under the norms of Journalistic Conduct laid down by the Press Council of India under the Press Council Act, 1978. In light of the above and having regard to the larger public interest involved, the print and electronic media is advised to refrain from publishing advertisements of online betting platforms."
Also, 1xBet raises several red flags. In 2019, the UK regulator opened a probe before suspending all UK operations.
As per a The Times, London, investigation, the betting company, founded in Russia, were indulging in several illegal activities including but not limited to a 'pornhub casino'. It's a casino that sees somebody involved in assisting the gaming table being topless to tempt more gamblers. It also took bets on children's games.
The company has also run into trouble with regulators elsewhere. There was such a big backlash in the UK that three Premier League clubs, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham, had to cancel existing deals with the company.
When contacted by The New Indian Express, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), expressed their concern.
"Prima facie some of these ads may be in violation of the laws of different states as gambling is a state subject," Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary agency of ASCI, an agency that sets out guidelines for advertising across different spheres, said in a statement. "The MIB advisory has also asked broadcasters to refrain from this."
By and large, online betting is illegal in the country so advertisements of this nature violate laws (there are a few exceptions because gambling or betting is a state subject).
Raina and Yuvraj did not respond to queries. The OTT did not respond to queries, either.