How betting companies are entering Indian sports leagues - Explained
Big names in Indian sports like Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh have recently been seen endorsing surrogate sites of betting companies.
Online betting sites have crawled their way into the Indian sports market and are finding themselves a place in mainstream events despite the Indian government's attempts to muzzle them.
Prominent names in Indian sports have been endorsing companies which sound suspiciously similar to betting companies in recent months. Some sponsors of teams and popular leagues in India are also going by some names which are very close to names of some betting companies. What is going on and how are these betting companies being featured on primetime television?
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued two advisories in June 2022 prohibiting newspapers, private TV channels and digital news media from publishing advertisements of online betting platforms. "Promotion of offline or online betting or gambling through advertisements is not advised in larger public interest," the Ministry stated.
Sports betting has an ambiguous place in Indian law. There is no specific ban on online betting on sports results in the country, but the Public Gambling Act of 1867 does make all forms of gambling illegal. The provisions within it on the difference between games of skill and games of chance keeps these new-age betting companies in an even more ambiguous space.
Despite the government's disapproval, various online betting companies are finding surrogate ways to advertise their brands digitally. How are they doing it? The betting platforms are not directly promoting their brand due to the norms in place and are using their own news websites for surrogate advertising. By doing this, they are entering India's mainstream sports ecosystem through the back door.
The surrogate news websites have striking similarities with their betting platforms. It is also to be noted that neither the betting site nor its surrogate news site is registered under any legal authority in the country.
Let us consider 1XBET for example to have a clearer idea. 1XBET is an online gambling/betting company and they have showed up in the market in India by the name 1XBAT, which is a sports news site. The company has created a separate medium to advertise their original brand. 1XBET is using a strategy to advertise in countries where betting is illegal.
While it is evident that certain companies like 1XBAT are practising their trade in an ambiguous domain in the country's penal code, there has been no actions from the Ministry.
The online betting companies are currently taking their brand advertising game to the next level by sponsoring domestic sports teams and tournaments through their surrogate advertising channels.
Here is a list of some of the online betting companies that are currently or have in the past sponsored domestic sports teams or leagues in India:
- Chennai Super Kings star Dwayne Bravo is the current brand ambassador in India for the company.
- '1XBAT' is the presenting sponsor for ISL club Kerala Blasters FC in the 2022-23 season.
- '1XNews' is the principal title sponsor of FC Goa in the current season.
- Jaipur Pink Panthers is powered by 'Dafanews' for the on-going season of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL)
- 'Dafanews' is the principal sponsor for Hyderabad FC in ISL 2022-23 season.
- 'Dafanews' is the associate sponsor of PKL sides Dabang Delhi and Haryana Steelers.
- 'SBOTOP' has been the shirt sponsor for ISL side ATK Mohun Bagan since 2020.
PARI MATCH (Parimatch News)
- 'Parimatch News' is the principal sponsor of ISL side Chennaiyin and PKL team U Mumba.
- 'Parimatch' has been the associate partner of PKL since 2021.
PLAYON99 (PlayOn99 News)
- 'PlayOn99 News' is the principal partner of Tamil Nadu Premier League side Lyca Kovai Kings.