Akshit Pushkarna
Gaming and e-Sports

WinZO responds to ASCI’s findings about real money gaming sector’s ad violations

ASCI’s Annual Complaints Report 2022-23 has found that WinZO violated guidelines 44 times.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has found that the ads by real money gaming companies, were the largest violators of its advertising norms in FY23.

Over 15% of the total ad complaints processed by the ASCI, were against real money gaming companies, as per ASCI’s Annual Complaints Report. Also, 92% of the gaming ads reviewed in FY23, didn’t adhere to the advertising guidelines.

The report found that prominent names in the gaming industry, including Mobile Premier League (MPL), A23 Games, WinZO, My11Circle, among others, had violated the guidelines. It also found out that real money gaming companies were the least compliant with the ASCI guidelines.

ASCI found that WinZO violated its guidelines 44 times over the past year - 41 of these violations still need to be addressed by the company.

Saumya Singh Rathore, co-founder, WinZO, commented on the findings of the report.

ASCI’s statements hurt the online gaming industry’s efforts to abide by the law of the country
Saumya Singh Rathore, co-founder, WinZO

“Over the last 12 months, the central government has made quite an effort to protect and grow online gaming, by making a clear distinction between gaming, and illegal/offshore betting and gambling products. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) notified the IT Rules to include online gaming as an intermediary, thereby providing a safe harbour to legally run businesses.”

“The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has made policy changes and driven these through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The latter will drive these distinctions and protect the consumers from offshore betting and gambling products pushed through the Internet.”

“These initiatives were welcomed by the industry, and benefitted the country at large. Unfortunately, when illegal offshore betting and gambling products are visible, the online gaming industry tends to suffer significantly due to the misconstrued association. ASCI’s statements hurt the online gaming industry’s efforts to abide by the law of the country.”

Only 50% of the ads were modified voluntarily after being called out. “We’ve noticed that the companies in the gaming sector aren't responsive to ad violation complaints,” Manisha Kapoor, CEO, ASCI, told afaqs!. 

Commenting on this, Shweta Purandare, an advertising compliance expert, influencer, former secretary general at ASCI, and founder Tap-a-Gain, says, “Offshore betting companies aren’t allowed to operate in India, as they’re considered to be illegal entities. Ads by these companies don't come under the purview of the ASCI. Hence, the ASCI isn’t the right forum to reach out to about this.”

Rathore adds, “It’s critical for the ASCI to understand different models to come up with more qualified, informed and proactive initiatives to curb illegal businesses from advertising on all channels. These include newspapers, OOH, etc. The ASCI shouldn’t be painting legal online gaming companies with the same brush as offshore and illegal betting and gambling companies. We’ve been working quite closely with the ASCI to help it understand the different models.”

“We’ve often been asked to bring down Instagram posts (a simple Father Day’s post promoting a free product, for instance). We don’t believe these are reasonable positions. It’s a nascent day for an industry that has the potential to contribute massively to the trillion-dollar economy. An innovation-friendly collaborative approach, where possibilities are encouraged without rigid boundaries, will go a long way in strengthening the ecosystem.”

Purandare also states that there are certain advertising norms in place (disclaimers, etc.), when it comes to the online gaming industry. “The online gaming sector has self-regulatory bodies of its own. It has a checklist that encourages responsible advertising. If you don’t advertise responsibly, you may end up attracting government scrutiny. If you’re not a member of bodies like the ASCI, you’re taking a chance to grow in scale.”

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