India's Cricket Body Bans Gambling Deals With Women's Teams

February 15, 2023
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India’s governing body for cricket has warned the five teams in the Women’s Premier League to reject branding, advertising or other associations with the gambling, cryptocurrency and tobacco sectors or face disciplinary action.

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India’s governing body for cricket has warned the five teams in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) to reject branding, advertising or other associations with the gambling, cryptocurrency and tobacco sectors or face disciplinary action.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) declared real-money gaming in general to be taboo for the sport, but it pointedly excluded fantasy sports from this restriction, according to the advisory note seen by the Cricbuzz online news portal on Monday (February 13).

The directive to women’s cricket clubs follows a similar notification to the men’s game, the Indian Premier League, 11 months ago. That document shut out real-money gaming and cryptocurrency partnerships, likewise exempting fantasy sports.

The Indian Premier League has previously signed sponsorship deals with cryptocurrency companies, but the BCCI ban and the government’s tandem introduction of a 30 percent tax on all crypto trades severed those arrangements.

The latest 68-page advisory, which has not been publicly released, requires the five women’s franchises to file copies of all commercial agreements between the clubs and corporate partners at least ten days before the start of the WPL’s 2023 season in early March.

“No franchisee shall undertake a partnership or any kind of association with an entity that is in any way connected/related to an entity that is involved/operates, directly or indirectly, in the betting/gambling/real money gaming/tobacco sector,” Cricbuzz quoted the document as saying.

“The franchisees may engage in partnerships with entities in the fantasy sports sector,” it said.

The BCCI has also banned any partnership between cricket teams and companies in the “cryptocurrency sector”.

The advisory’s additional warning against “surrogate advertisements” by corporate partners reflects growing unease in professional sporting groups over increasingly lucrative deals signed in recent months between real-money gaming companies and celebrities in the entertainment and sporting sectors.

Many if not all of these sponsorship deals disregard bans on real-money gaming activity across several state governments. Three of these governments have appealed to the Supreme Court of India to extend those bans to all online gaming with stakes.

The latest warning to the women’s game coincides with the Supreme Court preparing to hear what is likely to be a game-changing ruling on the nationwide legality of online skill gaming with stakes, which covers games such as poker and rummy.

The court on Tuesday deferred the case brought by two state governments — Karnataka and Tamil Nadu — until at least early March.

The state of Telangana is also seeking to join the plaintiffs, who are asking the court to overturn state High Court rulings that strongly backed the gaming industry and voided their bans on online gaming with stakes.

A victory for the gaming industry in the case, combined with central government moves to legislate and regulate online gaming with stakes at a national level, would potentially place pressure on the BCCI and other peak and regulatory bodies to allow partnerships between sports teams and currently banned industry segments.

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