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Italian authorities fine Google over illegal gambling ads

Google gambling news

Google Ireland Limited was recently fined €1.45 million (US$1.47m) by the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) for displaying gambling ads on YouTube. The fine was issued on Tuesday and involved Google and the content creation company Top ADS.
                    
AGCOM revealed in a statement that Google, as well as Alphabet, the parent company, was mandated to pay €750,000 (US$761,925), while Top ADS would pay €700,000 (US$710,990). The private company reportedly advertised gambling via its website and YouTube Spike channels. 
 
AGCOM revealed that the duo neglected to comply with the Dignity Decree instituted in Article 9 of Degree Law No. 87/218 in 2019. The law prohibited gambling promotion in all forms and cultural activities that included any form of betting with a cash reward. 

READ: Google allows online gaming adverts ahead of Ontario launch
 
The gambling authority in Italy held a press conference and revealed that the recent fine was the first time it had resorted to that measure when dealing with a video server. The penalty was imposed on Google because the authorities determined that the company sanctioned the promotion of Spike Slot gaming within the digital borders of the country. 
 
The billion-dollar company was also accused of not imposing penalties on the offenders. They further noted that Top ADS’ Spike was a “verified partner” and had a partnership contract with the company.
 
In a statement, the AGCOM said, “It is the first measure taken by the office against a video hosting service provider (Video Sharing Platform) for allowing the distribution of banned advertisements relating to games with cash winnings.” 
 

Illegal ads must be removed by August 9

Besides fining the parties involved, the Italian regulator also ordered that the 625 illegal ads still posted on YouTube be removed as well as on Top ADS’ website, spikeslot.com. Both companies were given seven days to do so to avoid additional fines. AGCOM also referred to the recent Court of Justice of the European Union ruling, which prohibited any further uploading and dissemination of video content like that. 
 
The Italian authorities also mentioned an instance in October 2020, when Google was imposed a fine of €100,000 (US$101,680) because the company violated the ban on promoting gambling games. AGCOM said, “YouTube was found liable for not taking action to remove the illegal content that was massively distributed on its platform by a third party.”

READ: Best betting sites for Italy in 2022
 
The Regional Administrative Court for Lazio eventually overturned the verdict. The court accepted Google’s defense, which claimed that the company had no prior knowledge or control concerning the advertisement in contention.
 
Compared to Google’s recent fine of €2.42 billion (US$2.46 billion), AGCOM’s fine is undoubtedly minor. The European Commission previously fined the company for violating the antitrust rules of the European Union (EU). 
 
Since 2017, Google has been fined three times in the EU, which is over $8 billion in total. The company is also currently embroiled in a “gambling conspiracy” lawsuit in the US. Their parent company, Alphabet, is in the process of fighting them all. 
 

Major concern over unauthorized gambling ads

One of the most well-known defense associations for customer rights in Italy, Codacons, commended AGCOM for deciding to take down the unauthorized video gambling ads. Codacons’ president, Carlo Rienzi, also revealed that several social networks, apps, and websites were always trying to find a way around the restrictions placed on gambling. 
 
Rienzi added that because several gamblers were young and susceptible to gambling addiction, allowing gambling ads could bring about more harm than good. He also talked about the Customs and Monopoly Agency’s data in Italy. The authorities discovered that in 2017, gambling in Italy brought in around €101.8 billion that year alone.
 
The Codacons president estimated that if shared accordingly, the sum could be divided into €1,780 yearly for each family in the country. Due to the fact that not everyone was involved in gambling, Rienzi concluded that the number of people involved in the recreational act was putting their finances in an unfavorable situation. 
 
Due to this, the defense association asked for a nationwide crackdown on unauthorized gambling advertising in Italy. They added that while AGCOM’s fine against Google was commended, the sum was minuscule compared to the billion-dollar company’s turnover. 

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