Google Permits Sports Betting Advertisements

Barnea Jaffa Lande & Co.
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Tim Donaghy, a former professional American basketball referee, worked for the NBA for 13 seasons, until 2007, when he was tried and sentenced for gambling on the point spreads in games he served as referee. During an FBI investigation into the case, it was discovered that Donaghy had a gambling problem and had placed tens of thousands of US dollars in bets on NBA games he had refereed, and had been approached by members of an East Coast crime organization to create a gambling scheme.

Sports betting by its very nature has the potential to be attractive not only to individuals with a history of gambling addiction, but also to people with a strong interest in sports. Many studies have showed that the enjoyment of watching a game increases significantly when the viewer has placed a bet on one of the sides. Common types of gambling include betting on the winning team, the final score, and the scores of each team. Each of the popular sports, including basketball, football, soccer, baseball, hockey, cycling, racing, martial arts, and boxing, offers a wide range of bets to suit the nature and structure of the game.

In May 2018, in a prominent US case, Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, the United States Supreme Court ruled to lift the federal ban on sports betting and by doing so overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which had prohibited US states from authorizing or licensing sports betting. In its ruling, the United States Supreme Court stated that, inter alia, the PASPA was unconstitutional and infringed upon US states’ rights. This ruling thus opened a door of opportunity for several states to permit sports betting, among them New Jersey, Nevada, and West Virginia.

Google is one of the technological titans of our time and its efficiency has made it the most dominant player in the online ads market. By offering high quality services for free (i.e. search engine, Gmail, Google maps), it gains insights that enable accurate ads to be served to its users. Earlier this year, Google updated its Google Ads policy on gambling and games and announced that, as part of a limited beta launch, state-licensed gambling advertisers would be permitted to promote sports betting content within the US states New Jersey, Nevada, and West Virginia. Such permission was contingent on, inter alia, holding a valid license issued by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, or the West Virginia Lottery, respectively. Following said Google Ads policy update, the permitted list for the advertising of sports betting was expanded, and five additional US states were accepted into Google’s limited beta, namely Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Montana, Iowa, and Indiana.

However, belonging to one of the permitted US states is not an automatic guarantee for being eligible to run ads for the promotion of sports betting. The advertiser is required to abide by a stringent number of Google policy conditions in order to receive Google Ads’ certification. As part of Google’s technical requirements, the advertiser must be the operator of social casino games, hold a valid local state-issued license for the distribution of games and promotion of sports betting, and only target users within the permitted US states. More importantly, however, are the requirements pertaining to the well-being of the targeted users: the advertiser is obligated to ensure that the landing pages display information about responsible gambling, that the ads themselves contain gambling assistance information, that a prominently placed warning against the dangers of addictive and compulsive gambling appears, and that it follow the policy forbidding anyone under the age of 21 from participating in sports betting.

It is advisable for advertisers to remain well informed of any updates or changes to the Google Ads policy in order not to be in violation thereof, which may subsequently lead to the disapproval of ads and possibly even account suspension, thus blocking said ads from running on Google’s platform. Sports betting will continue without a doubt to grow as a multi-billion-dollar industry and to remain a tempting lucrative business opportunity. It is therefore in advertisers’ best interest to remain in compliance with Google’s stringent policy conditions.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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Updated: May 25, 2018:

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