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ASCI directs The Online Rummy Federation to change or remove ad on online rummy for violating gaming ads code

Playing Cards Gambling

India’s self-regulatory body for advertising has told The Online Rummy Federation to either change or pull one of its ads for violating an industry code on gaming ads. Acting on a complaint by Vishal Gondal, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) found that TORF’s ad violated the recent guidelines for ads promoting games wherein a user is staking their money; it directed the body to change or remove the ad by March 10. MediaNama has reviewed Gondal’s compaint and ASCI’s decision.  

Starting mid-December, ASCI had implemented government-backed guidelines on real-money gaming ads, prohibiting ads that presented real-money gaming as an livelihood opportunity and requiring disclaimers about addiction and financial risk. The guidelines were prompted by the “real danger of negative impacts of real-money gaming ads” and the fact that real-money gaming is often presented as a source of income while hiding the possibility of losing money.

The ad in question was a full-page advertisement by TORF that featured on the Times of India in early February. It warned viewers that online rummy “works best with limits” “just like a credit card”.  The Federation has released a recent campaign on the apparent safety and risks of playing online rummy, these ads claim that online rummy games do not involve bots, and draws parallels with stock market regulators. The ad said that rummy sites certified by the Federation allow players to set limits and play responsibly. 

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Ads about online rummy need disclaimers, says ASCI 

According to the Federation, the ad’s message was to promote moderation in playing online rummy, and credit cards were used as an example. The industry body also argued that a disclaimer was unnecessary in the ad since it did not name or promote any particular rummy company. ASCI, however, did not buy this. Even though the ad does not name any company, it “does invite consumers to play a game that involves certain risks” and so it ought to adhere to the ASCI guidelines. 

TORF calls itself the “self-regulatory body” to “guide and support” the online rummy industry”. Its members include RummyCircle.com, Ace2Three, Junglee Rummy, Paytm First Games, and Mobile Premier League.

In its response to the complaint, the Federation went so far as to say that it is a not-for-profit “industry body” that “is not engaged in the business of rummy”, justifying why a disclaimer was not necessary. ASCI also dismissed this, stating that any organisation or body promoting games like rummy need to provide a disclaimer under the guidelines. While the print ad did have a disclaimer, it occupied less than 20% of the ad space, ASCI said. 

While rummy has been declared a game of skill by several courts, it is also a game of chance that can be “addictive and involve monetary losses”, ASCI noted. In addition, it also noted that the ad urged consumers to play in moderation by setting limits to their spend and that TORF in an industry body not directly engaged in the business of rummy. 

Most gaming ads pulled for violating advertising code 

In early February, ASCI disclosed that over half of all complaints it received against gaming ads resulted in the advertiser pulling the ad for violating the code. Out of complaints against 81 ads, 42 were removed after the ASCI intervened, and another two ads were eventually found to be violating the guidelines. At the time, ASCI was awaiting explanation from the advertisers on the remaining 37 ads. Most of the complaints pertained to ads about cricket (55 ads) and rummy (15 ads). 

Correction (12:03 pm): Removed reference to Vishal Gondal as CEO of nCore Games. The error is regretted. 

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