Offshore betting firms dodge MIB, target cricket fans through OOH and discrete channels

Despite efforts by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to curb their advertising initiatives, these companies – 1XBet, DafaBet, Parimatch, Betway, and others – are focusing on digital and out-of-home platforms to bypass restrictions.

By  Tasmayee Laha RoyMar 27, 2024 8:23 AM
Offshore betting firms dodge MIB, target cricket fans through OOH and discrete channels
The Indian Premier League (IPL) season is a goldmine for these companies, with cricket betting likely to spike dramatically from now to the end of the T20 World Cup 2024 in June

A large billboard in the South Extension neighbourhood of the national capital displays a seemingly innocuous message, ‘Play on Indian League 2024. United by Cricket. Rewarded with Cars.’ However, a closer look reveals the sponsor, 1XBET, a Cyprus-based online gambling company.

While full-page newspaper ads and television commercials from the Parimatches and Wolf777s of the world are gone, offshore betting hasn't disappeared. It’s simply gotten creative.

Despite efforts by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to curb offshore betting firms’ advertising initiatives, these companies – 1XBet, DafaBet, Parimatch, Betway, and others – are focusing on digital and out-of-home platforms to bypass restrictions.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) season is a goldmine for these companies, with cricket betting likely to spike dramatically from now to the end of the T20 World Cup 2024 in June.

According to Roland Lander, CEO of the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), these companies collectively spent a significant amount estimated between Rs 3,000 crore and Rs 3,500 crore in 2022 to promote their services in India.

In the last two years the spending has gone up by at least 30 percent to 40 percent according to experts. However, most of it remains accounted for, having moved away from traditional media.

“In the wake of the MIB crackdown, offshore betting companies have undergone a marketing metamorphosis. These companies have now taken to a fragmented media landscape, using subtle branding on cabs and buses, sponsoring niche sporting events, and partnering with a wider range of smaller celebrities and social media influencers. To further evade detection, they've switched to discreet advertising agencies and leverage channels on Telegram and WhatsApp to reach out to their target audiences,” Landers said.

The MIB advisory

On March 21 the MIB issued an advisory urging all endorsers and influencers on social media to refrain from showing promotional content/advertisements, including surrogate advertisements, of offshore online betting and gambling platforms in any form whatsoever.

While the online advertisement intermediaries were advised not to target such content towards the Indian audience, the social media intermediaries have been advised to conduct sensitisation efforts.

The advisory also said that failure to comply may lead to proceedings under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2019, removal/disabling of social media posts/accounts where such promotional content/advertisements/endorsements are being published, and penal action under the applicable statutes.

This is not the first advisory from the ministry. There have been a number of others that have forced the larger television networks to call off hefty deals with these companies.

Having lost access to traditional advertising channels, these companies are now masquerading as entertainment and sports content platforms, pushing bets through WhatsApp.

These ads often feature QR codes that lead users to a WhatsApp business account that grants access to betting details.

Anuraag Saxena, CEO, E-Gaming Federation, explained the lure of these ads.

“Consider this scenario, a user in Bhopal is scrolling through a short-form video app and sees a Bollywood actress promoting a betting app. The ad claims that playing on the site can make you a ‘lakhpati’ (someone with lakhs of rupees). Given the celebrity endorsement and the platform's reach, the user might believe the ad's claims,” he said.

“This is where the problem lies. The credibility of celebrities and social media platforms is being misused by illegal betting sites to lure in users. There's an assumption of legitimacy because of the placement and association, despite the current regulations prohibiting such advertising,” Saxena added. The misuse of celebrity and platform credibility poses broader concerns like tax and data pilferage, money laundering, and national security risks.

Team sponsorships

The branding and marketing initiatives are not restricted to advertisements only. These companies also spend significantly in sponsoring teams of various sporting leagues across the country.

Popular BGMI team XSpark, for instance, onboarded IWIN as its official strategy sponsor in March this year. IWIN is an online betting company where one of the current popular bets is on March 26 Chennai Super Kings vs Gujarat Titan’s match being played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

This is not an isolated example.

Kerala Blasters FC made a public announcement where they signed 1XBat Sporting Lines, as their presenting sponsor. Under the arrangement the brand’s logo appears on the front and back of the jersey in the Official Kerala Blasters FC kits alongside credible Indian brands like Asian Paints. Parimatch News signed a two-year title sponsorship deal with Indian Super League (ISL) team FC Goa ahead of the 2022-23 season. Parimatch Sports also signed a sponsorship deal with the iDream Tiruppur Tamizhans for the Tamil Nadu Premier League in 2023 where they were the title sponsors of the cricket team.

These news, content, sports or entertainment companies floated by the online betting platforms are nothing but cover used mostly to push out surrogate ads or create a brand recall, much like alcohol brands that promote club soda and music CDs.


Tags
First Published on Mar 27, 2024 8:17 AM

More from Storyboard18

Brand Marketing

Gaming firm Nazara acquires 100% stake in Kiddopia's Paper Boat Apps with Rs 300 cr investment

Gaming firm Nazara acquires 100% stake in Kiddopia's Paper Boat Apps with Rs 300 cr investment

Brand Marketing

Tata Digital integrates Tata Shop Share Smile (TSSS) into Tata Neu App

Tata Digital integrates Tata Shop Share Smile (TSSS) into Tata Neu App

Brand Marketing

IndianOil partners with Ultimate Table Tennis as title sponsor

IndianOil partners with Ultimate Table Tennis as title sponsor

Brand Marketing

Asian Paints Q1 FY2025 result: Net profit declines by 24.5% to Rs 1,170 cr, demand hit due to 'heatwave, election'

Asian Paints Q1 FY2025 result: Net profit declines by 24.5% to Rs 1,170 cr, demand hit due to 'heatwave, election'

Brand Marketing

'Ready to mix body wash failed for us’, says GCPL’s MD and CEO Sudhir Sitapati

'Ready to mix body wash failed for us’, says GCPL’s MD and CEO Sudhir Sitapati

Brand Marketing

Q1FY25: Network18’s TV news revenue jumps 14%, Digital news business records 34% growth

Q1FY25: Network18’s TV news revenue jumps 14%, Digital news business records 34% growth

Brand Marketing

ZEEL to raise $239 million through 10-year Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds

ZEEL to raise $239 million through 10-year Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds

Brand Marketing

DViO secures marketing mandate for Attero

DViO secures marketing mandate for Attero