Google Fined in Italy Over Illegal Gambling Ads on YouTube

Google is no stranger to run-ins with regulators. It constantly finds itself in battles with them for one reason or another and is now facing a fine in Italy over illegal gambling ads on YouTube.

An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland. The company faces a million-dollar fine in Italy over illegal gambling ads on YouTube. (Image: Reuters)

The Italian Authority for the Guarantee of Communications (Agcom, for its Italian acronym) announced yesterday a fine of €1.45 million (US$1.47 million) to Google and Top ADS, a content creation company. This comes as the result of the two not complying with the prohibition of gambling advertising in the country.

The fine to Google and parent company Alphabet is €750,000 (US$761,925). Top ADS will have to pay the €700,000 (US$710,990) difference, according to a statement from Agcom.

Just Another Day for Google

This is the first sanction that Agcom approves against a video server. Google owns YouTube, which the watchdog determined allowed advertising of the Spike Slot online gaming information platform within Italy’s digital borders.

Specifically, Agcom accuses Google and Top ADS of violating laws Italy’s government approved in 2019. These prevent all forms of advertising, directly or indirectly, of games, sports and cultural activities where the ads involve any type of betting for cash gains.

Google already received a fine for a similar infraction. In 2020, Agcom ordered it to pay €100,000 (US$101,680) for permitting gambling advertising on its own platform in Italy.

The Spike Slot ads were reportedly distributed widely across YouTube in Italy. Google had to have known about their presence since, according to the watchdog, it had a content agreement with Spike Slot for the ads on the platform.

In addition to the fine, Agcom has ordered the cancellation of 625 ads still present on YouTube. It also expects Spike Slot to remove “illegal content” from its site. The companies must comply within seven days to avoid additional fines.

Google is coming off one of its largest fines to date and the Agcom penalty is minor compared to most. Recently, the European Commission fined it €2.42 billion (US$2.46 billion) for violating European Union (EU) antitrust rules.

That was only one of the three the company received since 2017 in the EU that total over $8 billion. In addition, an ongoing “gambling conspiracy” lawsuit is active in the US. Alphabet is still fighting all of them.

Spike Slot a Relative Unknown

Spike Slot, according to its website, doesn’t offer real-money gambling. Instead, the Italy-based platform acts as an affiliate, presenting information and reviews on different games and operators.

The platform also provides access to free-to-play slots, as well as access to paid content from Play’n GO, Pragmatic Play and others. In addition, Spike Slot uses its YouTube and other social media channels to promote its activity, regularly presenting videos of the site’s owner playing different games. It manages five YouTube channels, according to the website, where it hosts different types of content.

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