Due to reports that addicts looking for advice on how to quit were being served up ads for online casinos in search results, Google has been forced to modify its gambling advertising.
As The Telegraph newspaper first reported Friday, searches for “Gamstop” — the UK’s gambling self-exclusion scheme for problem gamblers — were filled with ads for casinos offering sign-up bonuses.
The sites were licensed and controlled in places like Curacao and Cyprus, and so not bound to the Gamstop service like casinos licensed in the UK.
As reported by The Telegraph, the top-four links offered advice for self-banned UK players on how to avoid exclusion programs, some even offering lists of unregulated sites which would accept bets.
Although it was first for organic search, the actual Gamstop site was relegated to fifth position in Google’s search results.
The Telegraph was informed by a Google spokesperson on Friday that the offending Google Adwords accounts had been suspended.
There was no casino-related advertising when Casino.org checked on Monday, and Gamstop was the second search result, after a paid ad for a search engine which seems to be affiliated with Google.
The spokesperson added,
“We support responsible gambling advertising and it’s important to us that people see useful and relevant ads in this area. As such, we have strict policies around gambling ads, which we enforce rigorously.”
Operators must first apply for approval from the search giant to place paid ads in Google’s search results via Adwords, which should confirm that their product “abide[s] by local gambling laws and industry standards.”
As informed by casino.org, Google’s spokesperson did not explain how the system had failed in this case, other than to say it uses “a combination of humans and algorithms to vet advertisers.”
Fiona Palmer, Gamstop chief executive told The Telegraph she was “very concerned” about any harm that might have been done.
“When people search for information about self-excluding from online gambling, they should only see results relating to Gamstop and organizations providing support for problem gambling.”
“Consequently, we are working with Google and other search engines to ensure that when people search for information about self-excluding from online gambling, our website is prominently displayed and these websites are not included within the search results.”
Rollout in US
Recently Google has relaxed its advertising policy in the US to show the gradual, state-by-state legalization of online sports betting and casino gaming.
In December, it permitted online casino ads to run in the four states — New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania which have regulated markets.
Following beta-testing sports betting ads in New Jersey in June, it expanded the option to all states where the practice is lawful in October.