Google fined €750,000 in Italy for illegal gambling ads

The Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) has fined Google €750,000 as YouTube’s parent company for violating the country’s blanket ban on gambling advertising. Advertising agency Top Ads Ltd was fined an additional €700,000.

Google failed to moderate illegal content

Italy’s gambling authority issued a press release, noting that this was the first time it had taken the measure against a video-sharing service provider. Google’s fine resulted from its consent to allow gambling advertisements to appear on its YouTube platform.

The investigation concluded that Google, advertising agency Top Ads Ltd and the content creator had all violated the Dignity Decree – the 2019 law banning all gambling advertisements in Italy. According to AGCOM, Google has not implemented the necessary measures to prevent users from posting illegal content and has not taken action against existing offenders. The regulator pointed out that Top Ads’ Spike had a multi-billion dollar partnership agreement with the company and even held “verified partner” status.

Ads will be removed within a week

The Italian regulator did not limit its response to mere sanctions. It decreed that 625 pieces of illegal content should be removed from YouTube and the website within seven days. AGCOM also banned the distribution and downloading of similar video content, referring to the most recent judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

This incident is not the first case where Google has found itself in hot water for illegal advertising in Italy. On October 22, 2020, AGCOM fined the company €100,000. However, the Lazio Regional Administrative Court overturned the regulator’s verdict, accepting Google’s defense, saying the company had no knowledge or control of the offending ad, which circumvented their security controls.

Illegal game ads are a recurring problem

Codacons, one of the most important consumer rights associations operating in Italy, welcomed AGCOM’s decision to remove illegal advertisements on video games. The organization’s president, Carlo Rienzi, noted that websites, apps and social networks are constantly trying to circumvent advertising restrictions. He said this phenomenon could cause a lot of harm, especially since most of the gamblers were the young people most at risk of gambling addiction.

Rienzi cited data from the Italian Customs and Monopolies Agency. In its 2017 report, the authority found that Italians spent €101.8 billion on gambling that year. According to his estimates, this sum would lead to an expenditure of €1,780 per year for each family in the country. Considering that actual users were not so uniform, Rienzi inferred that many people indulging in gambling were seriously jeopardizing their financial situation.

Codacons called for a widespread crackdown on illegal advertising in Italy. The association acknowledged that the fine against Google was a step in the right direction, but the amount was pitifully small compared to the web giant’s turnover.

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