Google under fire from AGCOM over gambling ads

AGCOM, Italy’s federal communications and advertising authority, has launched an investigation into Google, which will determine whether its search engine has acted in breach of the country’s ban on gambling advertising.

The inquiry will look into subsidiary trading units Google Inc, Google Ireland Limited and Google Italy after a series of adverts from foreign gambling operators were shown in Google Italian search results.

In 2018, Google committed to removing all gambling-related content/services from being indexed on its Italian search results in line with the Lega-5Star government’s ‘Dignity Decree’ which implemented a blanket ban on all forms of gambling/betting marketing, promotions, advertising and sponsorships.

At the time of implementing the decree, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio stood by his personally penned mandate, stating that the legislation was protecting Italian consumers from the ills of gambling, and should be ‘a motion supported by all business and political stakeholders’.

The new investigation is reported to be looking at whether the Dignity Decree’s Article 9 ban on advertising is applicable to search results that place ads for foreign gambling operators at the top of the results page.

While it was initially expected that AGCOM would dismiss the reports, the communications authority has reportedly submitted a request for further information on the alleged infringements.

During 2020, the Italian government has moved to restructure leadership of AGCOM, appointing Giacomo Lasorella as new President – who has underlined that he will take a tougher approach on mandating Italy’s new advertising laws. 

A reform of AGCOM had been anticipated following 2019 disputes, as senior executives of the agency spoke out against the Dignity Decree’s flagship blanket ban on betting advertising and sponsorship, siding with Serie A clubs who demanded a formal review of new laws.

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