ASCI Introduces Guidelines for Advertising Real-Money Gaming

Considering the rapid growth and the real danger of the negative impact of the RMG (Real-Money Gaming) advertisements, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has come up with new advertising guidelines, which aim to make RMG advertising safer and more responsible. The new guidelines have been developed to ensure that such advertising makes users aware about financial and addiction risks that are associated with playing online games with real money winnings.

This follows a recent KPMG study, which found that online gaming grew 45% in FY20 with the user base crossing 365 million by March 2020 on real-money games (RMGs). Both the card-based and fantasy segments registered a significant growth. With more than 90% of people playing games on their mobile phones in India, the online gaming market, which is now worth more than $500 million, is expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2021. In 2019, approximately 5.6 billion mobile gaming apps were downloaded in India, the highest in the world and representing almost 13% of gaming apps globally. Internet penetration in India is estimated around 31% and KMPG expects it to reach 53% by 2021.

The government, via the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, The Department of Consumer Affairs as well as Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, has backed the new advertising guidelines developed by the ASCI to address growing concerns about the potential misleading and harmful advertisements. The new guidelines will be effective from 15th December 2020 and apply to advertisements of all real money gaming platforms on mediums like print, television, and digital.

The Guidelines:

1.No gaming advertisement may depict any person under the age of 18 years, or who appears to be under the age of 18, engaged in playing a game of online gaming for real money winnings, or suggest that such persons 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 in both audio and visual formats  

3.The advertisements should not present ‘Online gaming for real money winnings’ as an income opportunity or 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.

Manisha Kapoor, secretary general, ASCI, said, “We have observed gaming advertisements target youth and families by suggesting that these can become sources of income and livelihood for them. We have noted concerns about such advertisements, both from consumers as well as the government. The key fact that is completely suppressed in most of these advertisements is the real possibility of losing money. Millions of users of these apps come from lower income families, who can ill afford to lose their hard earned money. The frequent use of celebrities in many of these advertisements make them more attractive to consumers, and consumers tend to trust their heroes and role models blindly. Combined with the fact that these games are highly addictive, these advertisements end up being not just misleading, but also harmful to individuals and society. And therefore, they are violative of the ASCI code.”

She added, “The idea of framing specific guidelines for advertisement of such games is to inform advertisers as well as members of the public what criteria we will use to scrutinise advertisements against which we receive complaints. While the government will take a decision on the legal issues surrounding the sector, we believe these advertising guidelines will make the online gaming for real money winnings more transparent and safer. We are particularly happy with the wholehearted support and backing of the government to ASCI in implementing these guidelines, and this is yet another demonstration of the belief in the strength of self-regulation. We hope that these guidelines will usher in an era of more responsible and truthful advertising in this sector.”