Italian Regulator Fines Google, Ad Agency €1.45m for Violating Ban on Gambling Ads

  • Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (Agcom)’s fine was the first against a video provider
  • Italy’s gambling ban stems from the “dignity decree”
  • Other European countries are also struggling with how to deal with gambling ads
  • Italian soccer clubs are facing serious financial drawbacks from the ban
gavel on money
An Italian regulator hit Google and Top Ads with huge fines for running illegal gambling advertisements. [Image:]

The first offense

Italy’s advertising regulator Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (Agcom) fined YouTube parent Google €750,000 ($760,841) for violating a national ban on gambling advertisements.

the first measure taken by the office against a video hosting service provider”

“It is the first measure taken by the office against a video hosting service provider (Video Sharing Platform) for allowing the distribution of banned advertisements relating to games with cash winnings,” said Agcom in a statement.  

Agcom also fined Top Ads, the creator of the advertisement, €700,000 ($710,119) for its role in the illegal breach. The fines were disseminated after gambling ads inappropriately appeared on the company’s Spike YouTube channels.

Legal background

Italy’s stance on gambling advertisements has been maintained through the “dignity decree,” a piece of legislation that effectively banned the possibility for any to exist legally.

YouTube had previously made Spike a “verified partner,” which brought them greater fault for the ad contravention. Agcom noted that this upgraded status meant that YouTube, and Google, were responsible for the content that appeared on the channel.

Agcom may have issued its first fine to YouTube, but it has had previous run-ins with Google

Agcom may have issued its first fine to YouTube, but it has had previous run-ins with Google. In 2020, the regulator penalized the tech giant €100,000 ($101,403) for ads in its search engine. This decision was ultimately reversed in 2021. 

Europe’s trouble with gambling ads

The topic of regulating gambling advertisements has been a particularly controversial one in Europe. 

The Netherlands hosted a spirited debate over the jurisdiction of gambling ads. Politicians openly opposed the prevalence of operators and lobbied to crack down on their air time on television. 

Recently, Dutch gaming companies were forced to stop using role models in ad campaigns. 

Meanwhile, the constitutionality of Spain’s gambling ad ban is being reviewed judicially. The decision will have to be upheld by the Constitutional Court even if the Supreme Court finds the ban unconstitutional.

In England, the Premier League is in the midst of a decisive period on its gambling stance. The UK government allowed the league to conduct its own policy on the belief that it would eventually outlaw betting sponsors— however, teams have increasingly begun to join forces with operators, which could force government intervention. 

a bone of contention for soccer clubs

Italy’s ban, meanwhile, has also been a bone of contention for soccer clubs. Not only were many clubs previously aligned with gaming companies, but gambling’s overall prevalence in the sports world opens the doors to massive economic benefits.

Teams are still allowed to partner with operators in other regions, although the missed financial opportunity is still noticeable. 

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