The Independent revealed problems with Google search terms targeting vulnerable gamers to play in unregulated, offshore casinos even after self-excluding at Gamstop.
Gamstop Search Terms Manipulated to Lure Problem Gamblers
Gambling addicts may be exposed to more gambling-related advertisement as they look up help sources, The Independent, a UK-based media outlet reported. Upon searching Gamstop, a UK-facing self-exclusion program, on Google, players end up seeing casino advertisement, concerned parties have alerted.
That way, instead of banning themselves from gambling, individuals could be incentivized into playing more. The Independent brought up the issue with Google, but even after notifying the platform, some of the ads persisted.
The Independent cited four casinos, which allowed vulnerable individuals to find ways back into casino gambling despite the self-exclusion program. Most of these ads lead to casinos based in offshore jurisdictions, such as Curacao and Cyprus.
Each offer comes along with hundreds of free spins and other common marketing incentive that a person may have included themselves out of. However, since Gamstop doesn’t apply to offshore jurisdictions, players could potentially pursuit their gambling habit further.
VIP Customers and Gamstop Failures
Labor MP, Carolyn Harris, said that not filtering the search results better was ‘immoral.’ She also recently criticized a new report by the UK Gambling Commission presented to MPs and obtained by The Guardian, which revealed that a number of casinos have been generating the bulk of their revenue off VIP customers.
The report argued that some gambling companies have been over-reliant on the so-called VIP customers, the players who are also the most likely to develop an addiction according to the report. Summing up the findings, the report argued that every £4 out of £5 earned were contributed by one such customer.
Harris commented on the Google’s Gamstop issue, conceding that the Internet giant was not to blame, but urging the company to take measures:
“I don’t necessarily blame Google. In a way they are victims of the ingenuity of companies who are capable of bypassing any measures that are put in place.”
Furthermore, she expressed doubt about how the industry has been approaching the matter of self-exclusion, and whether there was enough willingness in gambling companies ranks to address the problem head-on.
At the beginning of 2019, another British media, the BBC, exposed flaws in Gamstop, showing how through simple name manipulation, excluded individuals could get back on in UKGC-licensed casinos. Addressing the latest issue, Gamstop head Fiona Palmer has said that the organization is already in communication with Google regarding the issue.
No UK Businesses Bypassing the Rules
What misleading ads there are have been placed by third-parties, most likely affiliates of offshore casinos trying to poach gamers. Google has responded quickly to the issue, as well, arguing that the company supports responsible gambling practices, including advertisement.
Furthermore, Google takes a dim view of any form of gambling advertising in forms that mislead or deceive individuals. The company specifically have been helping individual states in the United States to address concerns about offshore affiliates trying to promote products.
The company has also been very careful about allowing Android gambling apps on its Google Play Store, in a bid to keep everything safe and above-board.
Affiliates and third-parties branding their ads to target problem gamblers with slogans, such as “Find the best sites not on Gamstop here,” will be fought head on.
As advertising rules tighten, rogue promoters will be struggling to find foothold.