Video File Sharing Sites Containing Gambling Ads Under Investigation

Online gambling operators find it more difficult to promote their goods through video file sharing sites as law enforcement agencies and rights holders become wise.

Last week, the Bangkok Post reported that Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) arrested film2free.com’s administrator, an illegal video streaming site that hosted more than 3,000 pirated films and had a daily view count of about 10 m. In terms of Thailand’s top-visited online destinations, Alexa ranked the site 15th, just one spot behind Yahoo.com.

The platform reportedly made its owner about THB5 m (US$ 165k) a month in advertising revenue, most of which appears to have come from approximately two-dozen online gambling operators licenced internationally.

The DSI has recently been forced to focus on concerns from the American Motion Picture Association (MPA), which tends to have a greater interest in the gaming industry. The MPA found in 2018 that 16 percent of all advertising on Thai viewers’ famous pirate video sites were for gambling goods, while over 62 percent were supporting the sex industry.

In September, the MPA sent the U.S. Trade Representative a report highlighting “online gambling giant” 1xBet for using unauthorised file sharing sites as “a vehicle” to promote their gambling products.

1xBet has gained a reputation as a prolific user of pirated videos as advertising tools, embedding its logos directly on the bootleg screen of popular movies and television shows. 1xBet was named the third largest online video advertiser in Russia in June, just behind Google and Pepsi.

The situation became so dire that copyright holders and internet firms agreed to the terms of the anti-piracy ‘memorandum,’ which required online search engines to purge piracy-related links from appearing in search results, while Russia’s telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor would block offending sites domains.

This memorandum ended on October 31, but Russian media announced that lawmakers were planning to introduce a bill to enforce certain rules on a permanent basis. However, Russia will permit the blocking of banned online gambling goods from advertising platforms–anything other than sports betting with locally approved sites–without the need to obtain a court order first.