Italian media watchdog issues warning on gambling ads

Italy's AGCOM has fined Google €750,000 over gambling ads on YouTube.
Italy's AGCOM has fined Google €750,000 over gambling ads on YouTube.

AGCOM has warned that media and affiliate owners must abide by the rules in Italy’s Dignity Decree.

Italy.- The media and communications watchdog AGCOM has issued a warning to both foreign and domestic media and affiliate companies over gambling ad rules in Italy’s Dignity Decree. AGCOM noted it was fully authorised to penalise foreign media owners following European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings in favour of state agencies’ authority on gambling adverts.

The agency issued the warning after imposing a record €750,000 fine on Google due to gambling content shown on YouTube video channels. AGCOM found that YouTube had breached Article-9 of the 2018 Dignity Decree, which prohibits all gambling advertising, both direct and indirect, from being shown to Italian audiences. 

It held YouTube liable for not taking action to remove the prohibited content distributed on its platform by a third party, namely the Malta-based affiliate marketing agency Top Ads Ltd. The agency chastised YouTube for authorising Top Ads as a verified partner, which meant its channels could post gambling content without scrutiny.

Top Ads itself was fined €700,000 for posting prohibited content promoting gambling offers on SpikeSlot.com across five separate YouTube Channels. 

AGCOM said “This is the first measure taken by the agency against a video hosting service provider for allowing the distribution of banned advertisements for games with cash winning.

In July, Google updated its content guidelines for how ads are displayed in search results on its eponymous search engine. Gambling operators and affiliates will no longer be able to use a format that Google terms Rich Results to mark up products in search results.

The change applies as of this month as part of a wider policy on the listing of “high-risk products“, which also covers firearms and other weapons, tobacco, vaping and recreational drugs. The Rich Results function allows advertisers to instantly display certain product information such as price, availability and star rating on a product’s keyword search results.

Meanwhile, an Italian MEP has sought clarification of the EU’s position on esports events after Italy’s customs and monopolies agency, ADM, which regulates gambling in the country, closed down three esports venues in April.

He fears the ADM’s actions may hinder free-market competition between companies from different EU states. The ADM’s clampdown, which has been dubbed LAN-gate, has been criticised by organisers. They say it was triggered by Sergio Milesi, chief executive of Italian amusement arcade operator LED SRL, in a bid to stifle competition while the company prepares to launch its own venues.

In this article:
gambling gambling regulation