With a rise in the accessibility of smart phones and a piercing rate of internet usage among the populace in India, there has been a substantial boom in the online gaming wherein people put up money expecting for possible case or cash-equivalent winnings in return in India.
ASCI Guidelines on Online Gaming
A rapid increase in the online gaming apps and sharp rise in the consumer interests in such games has resulted in the ASCI – Advertising Standard Council of India, to step up and issue more comprehensive guidelines in addition to the already existing guidelines regulating advertising surrounding the online gaming apps . Established in 1985, the ASCI is committed to carry out the Self- regulation of Advertising in order to ensure the protection of the customer interests.
The ASCI has proposed guidelines on online gaming (effective from 15th December, 2020) to guide the advertisers so that the advertisements do not violate the ASCI Code pertaining to misleading advertisements and are not harmful to the society or individuals as such online games contain an element of financial risk and can be addictive in nature.
The guidelines are as follows:-
1. No gaming advertisement may depict any person under the age of 18 years, or who appears to be under the age of 18, engages in playing a game of ONLINE GAMING FOR REAL MONEY WINNINGS, or suggest that such person can play these games.
2. Every such gaming advertisement must carry the following disclaimer-
a) Print/ static: This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk.
i. Such a disclaimer should occupy no less than 20% of the space in the advertisement
ii. It should also SPECIFICALLY meet disclaimer guidelines 4 (i) (ii) (iv) and (viii)laid out in the ASCI Code
b) Audio/video: “This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk.”
i. Such a disclaimer must be placed in normal speaking pace at the end of the advertisement.
ii. It must be in the same language as the advertisement.
iii. For audio-visual mediums, the disclaimer needs to be both in audio and visual formats.
3. The advertisements should not present ‘Online gaming for real money winnings’ as an income opportunity or as an alternative employment option.
4. The advertisement should not suggest that a person engaged in gaming activity is in any way more successful as compared to others.
Taking into consideration that a large number of advertisements are appearing on television and other forms of media, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has issued an advisory that all broadcasters are advised to comply with the ASCI guidelines and the advertisements broadcasted on television adhere to the aforementioned ASCI guidelines.
Recently during the 15th season of the Indian Premier League, which started on March 26, 2022 high decibel advertising from online gaming industry was witnessed. The ASCI expressed concerns about several advertisements potentially violating its guidelines.
Around 300 advertisements aired by fantasy gaming companies during the first week of the IPL tournament were found to be violative of the guidelines issued by the ASCI. Online gaming companies failed to display disclaimers in their advertisements or out across misleading content which did not exhibit the element of financial risk involved in playing such fantasy sports. This was across OTT platforms and Television.
The issues/ misleading content displayed in some of the advertisements included:
• Dubious claims such as “India’s biggest 1st prize”.
• Disclaimer informing the customers of the financial risks was flashed quickly and not at the normal speaking pace as mentioned in the guidelines.
• While the disclaimers were being shown and spoken, there were celebrities acting at the same time distracting the customers from important information about the element of financial risk.
• Disclaimers displayed in smaller space than what has been prescribed as per the guidelines
ASCI is concerned that despite clear guidelines some online gaming companies are adopting to a shortcut.
The whole idea behind the making of these guidelines for advertisements is to guide the advertisers and help them identify potential risks relating to the content of the advertisements and the customers about the risks involved in playing such online games. In conclusion, the online gaming companies must adhere to the guidelines issued by ASCI in order to ensure that the advertisements properly display and mention all kinds of risks involved in the accessing of such online games and remain legal, honest, harmless and truthful. The advertisers by following the ASCI guidelines can make the advertisements more transparent and safe to maintain and enhance the confidence of public in advertising.