by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
Google has reversed its anti-gambling advert policy to the UK demographic. The leading international search engine will now accept advertisements from both registered UK organizations and advertisers whose campaigns are based in the European Economic Area (EEA).
With the corporate mantra, “Don’t Be Evil,” Google had maintained that its clients were not to run ads for online casino gambling, as well as for firearms, fireworks, “miracle cures” and prostitution for ethical reasons. However, mainland Britain, Scotland and Wales will see such internet gaming ads run by the end of the year. The repeal has is not extended outside of the UK.
According the some critics, the amendment is decision to amend its ethical policies is the result of the struggling global economy. “The bottom line really is it’s a lot of money,” said Hannah Kimuiu of advertising experts Greenlight. “The gambling advertising industry is probably worth £100 million a year. A lot of advertisers have had half their budgets in the past year. They’ve got to recover this money somewhere.”
Google refutes that the decision was made to cater to what is socially acceptable in Britain. The UK allows gambling advertisements because of “local business practices.”
A Google spokesperson said, “At the time, we thought banning these adverts worldwide was the responsible thing to do and would give us a chance to review our policies. But we like to localize our policies to make sure they’re relevant to cultural and legal practices in a particular country.”
After the implementation of the UIGEA, online gambling revenues in Britain, where internet casinos are legal, skyrocketed. Because Google is responsible for nearly 70 percent of the world’s internet marketing, online casino operators have been after Google for some time to lift the ban.
Although the Queen visited Google’s headquarters near Victoria station and gave the company her assent, the decision has been deemed “irresponsible” by MPs and church leaders who feel it is immoral for gaming companies to buy “sponsored links.”
The Church of England launched an attack on Google, as the decision was made just one day after figures were released showing a 25 percent increase in those seeking help with problem gambling.
A spokesperson for the Church said, “Whatever people are searching for on Google, it probably isn’t the chance to risk developing a serious problem that could have a hugely negative effect on themselves and their family. As people are facing more financial uncertainty, the fantasy of instant wealth could become particularly attractive and the consequences of losses correspondingly serious.”
Those worried that the reversal might corrupt adolescents, however, will be happy to learn that only licensed gambling websites will be permitted to display their adverts which will be classified as “non-family safe.” That is to say, said advertisements can be blocked using a parental control.
James Cashmore of Google stated, “We’ve decided to amend our policy to allow text ads to appear against search queries related to gambling in Great Britain. We hope this will enhance the search experience for users and help advertisers connect with interested consumers. Gambling ads will automatically be classified as Non-Family Safe which means they will not show on any search where the user has applied the Safe Search Filter.”