Italian national communications authority Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AgCOM) announced further investigation into Google regarding a possible violation of the blanket ban on gambling advertising is needed. The body is investigating Google Inc, Google Italy and Google Ireland for ranking foreign gambling operators in google search results.
AgCOM is looking into the online giant with regards to the Dignity Decree which Italy passed into law back in 2018, and which prohibits practically any form of gambling advertising, and despite expectations that the investigation would be dropped, the communications authority said it requested further information.
Top Rank Search Results Pose Issues
AgCOM is focusing on Article 9 of the Dignity Decree to find out whether its scope covers search engine results which rank websites of foreign gambling operators, and by ranking these top of the search results page, in essence flout the gambling blanket ban.
So far, the country’s communications authority has shown its resolve to deal with the issue of gambling advertising, with most of its investigations centred around bonus offers which appear on operators’ websites. AgCOM is taking a firm stance that bonus offers count as advertising, despite these showing on gambling companies’ websites and undertook enforcement actions on 5 occasions until this moment.
In the most recent case in July, despite that the gambling operator argued the piece considered in violation of the ban did not call to action, the regulatory body opined that the welcome bonus offer included verbally attractive claims and explicit invitations to join, on top of graphics typical for promotional content. At the end, the Italian-licensed operator elected to settle the complaint by paying a reduced amount of penalty, €16,000.
Licensed Operators Lashed at the Ban
Since its introduction, the blanket ban on gambling advertising was heavily criticized by Italian gambling operators who saw their websites falling in local google search results ranking, at the expense of foreign companies, whose websites, despite not being licensed in the country, started climbing up top.
Some executives of Italian-licensed gambling operators lambasted the government for the introduction of the ban, arguing their call fell on deaf ears. Microgame CEO Massimilano Casella stated that, despite efforts from the company he is in charge of to work side by side with the authorities, they remained deaf and blind.
Kindred Group Head of Gaming Cristiano Blanco pointed straight at the elephant in the room, stating that the gambling ban was delivering the online game to unauthorized operators, while from LeoVegas expressed confusion as to the inconsistency between legalization of gambling and the blanket ban on gambling advertising, arguing the ban did not make any logic sense.