In June 2007, Google implemented a global ban on gambling ads. But by October of last year it had decided to reverse that ban, allowing licensed gambling operators in the UK and the European Economic Area to purchase ads in the UK market.
At the time, Google claimed that the reversal of the ban was part of a plan to make local search results more relevant.
Now MPs want Google to reconsider that ban:
This house notes with concern the recent decision of Google to reintroduce online gambling advertisements during a period of economic downturn; supports the Church of England's position that the actions of Google risk normalising gambling in society; and calls on Google to review its policy in line with its own obligations on corporate social responsibility.
Does Google really risk normalizing gambling in society? Does it really have an obligation to ban advertising for gambling as part of 'corporate social responsibility'?
Hannah Kimuyu, the PPC Director for Greenlight, stated:
...I would say that the responsibility lies with the gambling companies themselves. If they are allowed to advertise through other channels such as television; then why not through Google. Google’s overturn isn’t a free for all; there are regulations in place including an emphasis on gambleware. Therefore, shouldn’t the government encourage and assist Google in monitoring the gambling companies, as opposed to calling for a reinstatement of the ban?
She went on to note that Google's move to reinstate gambling ads was clearly a move designed to counteract the effects of the credit crisis and to "fill the hole in its revenue fast" as advertisers cut spend. Kimuyu estimates that the annual turnover for Google's gambling ads "could easily reach £300m".
Which begs the question: isn't that good for the economy? After all, Google does pay taxes.
And if gambling is legal and advertised through other mediums, it's hard to see why there should be a double standard when it comes to the internet. If MPs are worried about the "normalization" of gambling in society, perhaps they should consider the possibility that the legality of gambling is what normalized it in the first place?
Hopefully Google will rebuff these calls for a new ban on gambling ads. As we've pointed out before, even when the ban was in place marketers used clever typos to circumvent the ban and even with a ban on paid search ads, it's not like people are going to have a hard time finding gambling sites via the organic SERPs.
Therefore, in my opinion these MPs are just blowing a lot of smoke.