According to the latest report from the Hindustan Times, the Indian government has blocked a majority of gambling websites, acting on the recommendation of the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has taken steps to block 22 offshore and Indian gambling websites, in addition to the 138 online betting apps and websites that were already blocked in February. These crackdowns are part of an ongoing effort to clamp down on illegal gambling and betting activities.
The most recent list of blocked websites includes mirror websites of certain companies, like Lotus 365, which were previously blocked in February. Despite the action taken by the government, it was found that 18 of the 22 websites were still accessible through direct or mirror websites without the use of a VPN as of November 11. Some of these websites and their mirrors even redirected to 7cric.com, a betting website that was not on the blocking list.
The ED officer confirmed that all 22 websites blocked on its request were connected to the Mahadev Book platform. The financial crimes probe agency has alleged that Mahadev Book provides illegal betting facilities in live games, card games, and betting on various sports, as well as card games and other activities.
The platform’s promoters, Sourabh Chandrakar and Ravi Uppal, have been suspected of moving between different countries, including the UAE, Sri Lanka, Australia, London, and the Caribbean. The protagonists have been accused of remotely running the online betting syndicate and outsourced various illicit activities to partners in exchange for a share of the profits.
Many of the blocked websites were found to have links to Indian addresses and phone numbers. Several of the websites are run by UK-based Flutter Entertainment’s subsidiary Betfair, with some claiming to have legal gambling licenses issued in Curaçao. The Mahadev Book operates closed groups on chat apps and various mirror websites, creating a challenge for authorities in blocking them effectively.
Despite these crackdowns, the report also highlights the continued presence of these platforms on social media and the endorsement of betting companies by celebrities, despite advisories issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to prohibit the advertisement of online betting platforms.
The Enforcement Directorate alleges that Mahadev began operations in 2019-20, seeing increased user activity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The agency has also accused the platform’s promoters of extravagant spending and violating the law through their operations.
The Hindustan Times report underscores the challenges faced by the government in effectively blocking these websites under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. It also raises concerns about the continued presence of these platforms on social media and the endorsement of betting companies by celebrities, despite advisories issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.