Pressure is mounting on online gaming companies exploiting a porous law and lack of regulations to expand their businesses. (More Cricket News)
On Thursday, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court once again expressed its displeasure that gaming companies were riding the popularity of two Indian cricket captains -- Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli -- to attract people into real money gaming.
My11Circle and Mobile Premier League (MPL) have caught the attention of the judges of the Madras High Court on the basis of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Mohammad Razvi against online gaming involving real money transactions.
The PIL has also objected to popular celebrities like cricketers and cine actors like Tamannah Bhatia, Rana Daggubati endorsing such brands.
Online gaming companies, especially fantasy cricket operators, have been spending big after live sports returned in June this year.
Sourav Ganguly, who is also the president of the BCCI, was regularly seen on My11Circle advertisements challenging online gamers to "make your team and win crores." These ads continue to proliferate leading cricket websites.
Online gaming operators cashed in on the popularity of IPL 2020 in UAE in September-November to drive their products.
A BIG BOYS PARTY
MPL (endorsed by Virat Kohli), My11Circle and Paytm (endorsed by Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar), and Dream11 (endorsed by MS Dhoni) went big to make their brands popular.
Dream11 even went on to become title sponsors of IPL 2020 after Vivo withdrew due to the backlash on Chinese goods in the wake of the Galwan Valley standoff in Ladakh.
Although Dream11 (endorsed by almost every top player in the current Indian cricket team) and Paytm have escaped the attention of the petitioner, judges Justices N Kirubakaran and Justice B Pugalendhi on Thursday wanted to know if celebrities should be held liable for endorsing gaming brands that involves real money transactions.
Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of Ganguly (My11Circle) stated that he would like to file a detailed reply demonstrating how the activities conducted are "not gambling."
ALSO READ: Legality Of Online Gaming Business Models
Rohatgi said he appreciated the spirit of the court's submissions and will convey the same to his clients that endorsements by celebrities were leading people to wager bets.
According to the 2019 Consumer Protection Act, responsibility is thrusted upon celebrities when it comes to advertisements.
This is the first time that any court has shown so much interest to hear matters pertaining to online gaming and the damage it could do.
Dream11, for example, has won no less than half-a-dozen cases at various courts saying that they were operating a business that was based on skill and not chance. Most of these cases were disposed of in a jiffy.
After reports of '30 suicides' due to online betting came to the Madras High Court's knowledge, the current PIL has taken a serious turn. Tamil Nadu could be following Andhra and Telangana in banning online gaming activities like rummy, pool, poker or cricket.
ALSO READ: Andhra Pradesh Bans Online Gaming, Betting
The court has asked the petitioner to serve the respondent celebrities (Ganguly and Kohli) notices once again. The matter has been listed for hearing again on December 10.
On Wednesday, the Information & Broadcasting ministry held a meeting with various stakeholders of the online gaming business to discuss the various advertisements that are luring people to online gaming.
Many ads have been found to be morally offensive and with no proper guidelines, gaming companies have boldly exploited media space on TV and online during IPL 2020.
Under pressure from the government, MPL has withdrawn its 'offensive' advertisements from social media and YouTube.
Some major brands have even run TV commercials without any disclaimer during IPL, pointed out observers. "They have not been pulled up for some strange reasons," said an industry insider.
Dream11, MPL, Paytm and My11Circle have been heavily involved with cricket.