Several advertisements by fantasy sports wagering platforms (which refer to themselves as ‘real money gaming’ companies) violated standards set by the Advertising Standards Council of India, the self-regulatory body said in a report released on Thursday. The report looked at ads in 2021–22. The level of misleading or otherwise questionable ads were especially notable because these sectors were only a part of their overall business categories: virtual digital assets and gaming respectively.
One company, Binomo, was responsible for 296 of the 373 ads that the regulator took action on, according to data released by the ASCI; that’s nearly 80% of all complaints.
“Most advertisements looked into under this sector were influencer disclosure cases where influencers were talking about how to navigate the VDA platforms, or sharing information about the category and how the platform is easy to operate,” the ASCI said, indicating that Binomo had run promotional content through influencers without properly disclosing that they were behind that content.
The next highest violator in the virtual digital assets category was CoinDCX, which had 45 ads that were sanctioned by the ASCI. The nOFTEN NFT marketplace, Coinswitch Kuber, and WazirX were next, with thirteen, nine and two ads respectively where action was taken.
For gaming, the top four violators were all fantasy gaming firms: Twelfth Man, Khelo Fantasy, Namma11, and Sportasy, in decreasing quantity of violations. These companies had 33–63 complaints each.
The next highest violating category was card gaming websites like DeccanRummy, RummyCircle, Winzo and Paytm First Games. (Most of these sites only had a single-digit number of violations, though.)
Gaming and crypto companies have spent enormously on advertising in the last couple years, leading to government scrutiny. Both these industries deferred regulatory action somewhat by committing to self-regulatory codes of advertising with the ASCI, but they are facing existential trouble nonetheless. The crypto industry is reeling from a severe market shake-up, and faces prohibition in India if the RBI has its way.
The real money wagering/gaming industry, on the other hand, is facing a 28% GST rate on winnings that could severely impact its primary allure as a place to make money. The Indian GST Council is meeting next week in Bengaluru to discuss the imposition of this tax.