The Criminal Investigation Department of the police has said it is scrutinising some advertisements for different online gambling and betting platforms run by a private sports channel and sports-based websites operated from abroad.
During the FIFA World Cup and the home cricket series against India, Bashundhara Group-owned private television channel T Sports ran advertisements for the sports betting platform 1xbet frequently.
The Cyprus-based online gambling website 1xbet is banned and blocked in Bangladesh, according to CID officials.
CID’ Cyber Crime Command and Control Centre special police superintendent Muhammad Rezaul Masud said that they were aware of sports betting and online gambling through 1xbet.
Legal actions have been taken against admins and agents of the betting and online gambling platform earlier, the CID officer said.
‘We have noticed that the online betting and gambling platform’s advertisements were broadcast on T Sports during the World Cup matches. We are monitoring and analysing the development. Action would be taken if a breach of the gambling-related laws were found,’ said Rezaul.
Huge amounts of money have been laundered from Bangladesh through this gambling platform, said CID investigators.
1xbet is a widely used platform in the world of gambling and sports betting.
T Sports chief executive officer Ishtiaque Sadeque claimed that they did nothing wrong as their advertiser was 1xbet Sporting Line, which is mainly involved in sports kits business.
‘Our advertiser is not involved in betting or gambling. Many people mixed it up mistakenly,’ claimed Ishtiaque.
The firm’s advertisements are also broadcast on other international sports-based channels such as Sony Sports Network, said Ishtiaque.
Almost all gambling is illegal in Bangladesh, but it is rampant during major sports events when underground punters exploit a brief delay between live play and official broadcasts to place bets.
Popular sports-based sites like espn.com and espncricinfo.com have been running advertisements for different online gambling platforms.
The texts of the advertisements were in Bengali, giving a clear indication that they were targeting the Bangladeshi audience.
Posts and telecommunications minister Mustafa Jabbar said on September 24 that the government has permanently blocked a total of 6,000 gambling sites.
Later in October, the digital security cell of the BTRC blocked 331 online betting sites.
A BTRC officer said that they block gambling websites based on their monitoring and the reports of some other state agencies.
‘Those are absolutely gambling sites. We don’t have a mechanism developed to restrict gambling advertisements on other sites,’ said a senior BTRC official.
Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan sparked controversy in August when he announced his partnership with Betwinner News, a news portal run by a gambling company based on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao.
As the announcement caught them off guard, the Bangladesh Cricket Board sought clarification from Shakib. The board also issued an ultimatum to him to either cancel the partnership with the gambling company or face an axe from the national side.
Amid huge criticism in Bangladesh and an ultimatum from BCB, Shakib, later on, cancelled his partnership with Betwinner News, a sister concern of betting site Betwinner.
The High Court on December 18 asked the government to explain why its failure to prevent broadcasting or remove online betting or gambling advertisements on digital and online platforms, including social media and television, especially sports channels, should not be declared illegal.
A bench of Justice KM Kamrul Kader and Justice Muhammad Ali issued the rule after hearing a writ petition filed by two Supreme Court lawyers, Mohammad Miftaul Alam and Sumit Kumar Sarkar.
The High Court asked the regulatory authorities to explain why they should not be directed to stop online betting or gambling ads in the middle of sports and news shows, especially on sports TV channels, news sites, and social media, including those with visible screens.
The court asked the secretaries of the ministries of Posts, Telecommunications Division, Information and Communication Technology Division, Youth and Sports, and the chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to respond to the rule.
Petitioner’s lawyer Kamal Hossain Meahzi argued that all types of bets that depend on luck or involve money are gambling.
And gambling is completely banned in Bangladesh. There is a High Court ruling and a ban on gambling. But various television channels, especially sports channels, were broadcasting various online betting advertisements during live games, he told the court.
He said that the state shall take effective steps to stop prostitution and gambling, according to article 18(2) of the constitution.
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