Italian national communications authority Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AgCOM) announced Thursday global search engine Google had been fined for breaching the blanket ban on gambling advertising in the country.
Betting Ad on Search Results Page
AgCOM did not provide further details regarding the amount of financial sanction imposed on Google Ireland Ltd, the operator of Google Ads service, beside the fact that the search engine had allowed a paid advertisements of a betting website, sublime-casino.com, on its search results page. Sources close to the matter flout the amount of €100,000.
There is no information whether the penalty on Google is related to a previous investigation by the communications authority. In September, AgCOM announced it would deepen its investigation into Google companies for possible violation of the blanket ban in Italy regarding gambling advertising.
Gambling Advertising Blanket Ban
The Dignity Decree was passed in Italy in 2018 and prohibited any form of advertising related to gambling activities, and became an object of scathing critics from licensed gaming operators in the country.
Licensed gambling companies claimed their websites fell in local google search results ranking at the expense of foreign operators, as the search page suddenly started ranking top the unlicensed to operate in Italy websites. Some of the operators even went further, claiming that the blanket ban was simply delivering the online market on a plate for unlicensed gambling operators.
AgCOM said then it would examine Article 9 of the Dignity Decree to find out whether its scope covers search engine results, as the communications authority was concerned that by ranking foreign gambling operators top of the search results page, Google was actually flouting the gambling blanket ban.
The undisclosed amount imposed on Google is one in a series of financial penalties dished out by the regulator which is not shy of enforcement actions. Showing its resolve to deal with violations of the ban on gambling advertising, AgCOM mostly focused on the issue of bonus offers which gambling operators post on their websites.
The regulatory body took a firm stance that these represent advertising, arguing successfully bonus offers include verbally attractive claims, explicit invitations and graphics, all elements typical for promotional content, leaving no room for operators to manoeuvre but to accept settlements.