Advertisements related to cryptocurrencies and online gambling involving real money were among the top five categories in terms of the number of complaints filed against them with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulatory body of the advertising industry in India. Also, most of these ads needed editing.
ASCI’s 2021-2022 annual complaints report, which was released on June 28, examined 5,532 advertisements – across all media, including print, digital and TV – to spot instances of violations.
About 16% of all complaints were about crypto and online gaming ads (8% each). Additionally, the percentage of ads requiring changes reached 95% for virtual digital assets and 94% for online games.
According to ASCI CEO Manisha Kapoor, the criteria for real-money online gaming advertisements came into effect in December 2020.
“We saw the peak number of breaches in the digital medium (across all categories),” Kapoor says.
Reacting to the ASCI report, gaming industry experts said that the Indian gaming sector is outperforming its peers globally and in this high growth environment, lawmakers and regulators need to protect consumers. “ASCI’s guidelines against offshore online gambling advertising are a step in the right direction, but they ignore some of the issues facing big-name domestic real-money companies,” says Vishal Gondal, Founder from nCORE Games, a Bangalore-based mobile game company.
“ASCI should take a more proactive stance to protect consumers and young people from the harms associated with betting/gambling, seen at high levels in domestic real-money gaming companies,” he adds.
Ads promoting real-money online games such as rummy, poker and fantasy sports have also been criticized for being misleading and endangering users.
Tushar Gandotra, Founder and CEO of FiEx, a Gurugram-based gaming company, believes there is a need to involve the entire gaming industry ecosystem so that a holistic framework can be developed to guide industry on various aspects of doing business, including advertising and promotion to target audiences.
Distorting reality and violating standard guidelines can impact the trust of existing and potential users, says Archana Sangaran, marketing manager at FanClash, a fantasy game company.
Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 online game advertisements were found to have breached advertising standards, ASCI pointed out in April 2022. During the first week of IPL, from March 26 to March 3 April, 35 television commercials from the online gaming sector were screened. . ASCI found that 14 of them violated its policy.