Gambling ads in sports: Who will bell the cat?

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The fact that the gambling advertisements have not stopped despite the clear instructions of the Supreme Court, is utterly concerning.

The way advertisements of surrogate or disguised gambling sites are being telecast on television during sports matches is having a long-lasting impact on our society, economy as well as on the field of sports.

On one hand a huge amount of money is being siphoned off abroad while on the other hand a large portion of our young generation from villages and small towns are becoming addicted to gambling and getting involved in various crimes. What’s most alarming is that the players themselves can get tempted to crimes like swaying the match.  

As reported by Prothom Alo, advertisements of gambling sites are deceptively being telecasted on television channels, websites, YouTube channels as well as on OTT platforms.

Since there are legal complications, the advertisements are being circulated by changing the spelling only or else by changing one or two words on the website address. Meanwhile, adding up the word ‘news’ in the title of the gambling site it is tried to pass that off as a news site.

Any type of gambling or betting is prohibited by the law in Bangladesh. No matter if it’s analog or digital the socioeconomic impact of any sort of gambling is indeed negative.

We believe the concern Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has expressed in a statement recently sent out to the media over the spread of online gambling, is only right.

The organisation says that driving the country towards serious danger by taking advantage of the loopholes in the law just for the sake of profit does not in any way set an example of a responsible media.

A clear indication of the fact that a massive amount of money is being siphoned off through online gambling, was even found in the statement finance minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali recently made in the national assembly.

In context of a writ petition filed in public interest, the High Court passing a judgment on 11 July 2023 ordered BTRC to stop advertisements of online betting and gambling on social media as well as on television.

At the same time, the court ordered to stop the gateways and channels of the financial services through which transactions are made with the betting websites.

However, it goes without saying that the concerned agencies of the government have not taken any effective steps to stop circulation of the advertisements of betting sites even after the clear-cut instructions of the High Court. Nonetheless, these sorts of advertisements has rather increased following the court orders.

The statement on circulating surrogate advertisements of betting sites from a representative of the consortium that has bought off the broadcasting rights of BPL and domestic series from the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), does not seem plausible.

In their words, the surrogate advertisements or the advertisements of the news channels they circulate are in no way directly connected to the betting sites.

Meanwhile, despite speaking of zero tolerance in case of promoting betting or betting sites, BCB has actually taken a softer stance. According to one of the BCB officials, except for one or two cricket agencies of the world all the others have approved surrogate advertisements.

In this case, the stand taken by the information ministry and the BTRC cannot be considered acceptable either. And, the BTRC says that they take action whenever there’s a request from the law and order enforcement forces or any other agencies of the state.

Now the question is, if none of the concerned agencies take responsibility or take a flexible stand how will the circulation of gambling sites’ advertisements be stopped?

In recent times, we have noticed that different types of crimes including murder, beating, stealing and mugging have increased at an alarming rate due to online gambling. Many are going broke also.  

Before everything else, there needs to be a political will on the government’s part to stop the promotion of online gambling as well as advertisements of online gambling.

Why effective measures won’t be taken to put an end to the gambling that is having multifaceted impacts on the society and the economy. After all, the concered agencies have to take responsibility and bell the cat.

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