Italy: Google faces further investigation over gambling ads

AgCom is investigating whether Google ads flout Italy's ban on gambling advertising.
AgCom is investigating whether Google ads flout Italy's ban on gambling advertising.

The search giant is being investigated by the Italian communications authority AgCom.

Italy.- The national communications authority AgCom says further investigation is needed to determine whether Google is flouting Italy’s ban on gambling advertising.

The body launched an investigation into Google Inc, Google Ireland Limited and Google Italy over ads for foreign gambling operators that appear in Google results.

Italy adopted a complete ban on almost all forms of gambling advertising with the introduction of its Dignity Decree back in 2018.

The investigation into Google is believed to be focusing on whether the scope of the Dignity Decree’s Article 9 ban on advertising covers search results that place ads for foreign gambling operators at the top of the results page.

It had been expected to dismiss the case but has now announced that it has requested further information.

Most investigations launched by AgCom since the introduction of Italy’s advertising ban have focused on bonus offers appearing on operators’ websites.

The authority has taken the line that bonus offers count as advertising, even if they appear on the operator’s own website. It has so far taken action against operators on five occasions.

In the last case in July, an Italian-licensed operator settled a complaint by paying a reduced fine of €16,000 over a welcome bonus offer.

The operator had argued that the piece in question did not include a call to action, but AgCom argued that the offer included “verbal attractive claims . . . explicit invitations to join the offer and graphics typical of promotional communication.” 

The Italian government has begun restructuring AgCom’s leadership this year, appointing Giacomo Lasorella as president. Lasorella has said he intends to take a tougher approach on Italy’s advertising laws.

The authority saw several disputes last year as executives openly criticised the ban betting advertising and sponsorship, taking the side of Serie A clubs who demanded a review of the new laws.

Earlier this year, Italy introduced a new additional tax on sports betting.

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