Google to serve online gambling ads in eight US states

After Sports Betting Trial Run, Google Ads Ready For US Online Gambling

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A report surfaced last week, indicating that Google will soon expand the range of ads related to gambling it permits in the US market. The number of states in which sports betting is advertised will almost triple as soon as this week.

What’s more, online casino advertising should be coming within a matter of months.

Google is generally gambling-friendly, permitting related advertisements in roughly 30 countries. Until recently, however, the United States was not on that list.

That changed in June this year when Google Ads allowed regulated sportsbooks to advertise in New Jersey on a trial basis, followed shortly thereafter by Nevada and West Virginia.

Sports betting ads in five more states

This week, Google disclosed that it is in the final stages of obtaining regulatory permission for sports betting ads in five additional states:

  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island

Montana is a somewhat surprising inclusion, as there isn’t actually a legal product to advertise there yet. Although the relevant legislation passed in May, state officials said in September that they do not expect a product to launch until the end of the year.

Google, meanwhile, says that the first ads might go live as early as Oct. 22. The exact timing depends on the speed with which the relevant regulatory authorities grant their final approval, and it may vary from state to state.

Google Ads in 2020 — poker included?

Although Google didn’t make a public announcement regarding online casino advertising, EGR Intel ($) reports that these are expected in the first quarter of 2020.

There’s no word on whether online poker ads are also on the way, which may depend on the regulatory structure of individual states.

A New Jersey online casino license also includes poker, for instance, so we’ll probably see both verticals advertised in parallel. In Pennsylvania, by contrast, poker is licensed separately.

Regulatory requirements for online gambling ads

Google’s terms of service include numerous stipulations for gambling companies that advertise, including age verification and the presence of responsible gambling messaging.

Any gambling business failing these tests wouldn’t be licensed to operate legally in the US in any case, of course.

Yet, there are still hoops for Google to jump through to convince regulators that it has the proper tools in place to ensure only legal companies advertise, and only in appropriate contexts.

The reach of Google Ads is unparalleled, including “zillions of placements” across YouTube and a number of mobile apps (via AdMob). Approved online gambling ads will be permitted in conjunction with all of these — save for Google Ad Manager, which gives publishers some control over which ads are displayed on their websites.

Regulation is only half the picture

From the perspective of online gambling operators looking to advertise, there are two separate hurdles. The regulatory component is one, but there’s also the matter of finding ad platforms willing to carry such advertising. Cultural resistance to gambling is still fairly widespread in the US.

Operators are sure to be delighted, then, that Google is proactive in working on getting its ads onto its mammoth platform.

Google’s approach has always been fairly permissive, though, using “Democracy on the web works” as one of the early pillars of its philosophy. While that sentiment related to how it prioritizes search results, the impact Google has had on real-world political democracy has since become a legitimate talking point.

Even as its range of products has expanded, Google has remained committed to the idea of trusting the wisdom of crowds to curate content.

Google and Apple diverge at online gambling

Not all tech companies operate on the same philosophy, however. Apple is far on the other end of the spectrum, and its attitude similarly traces back to its origins as a company.

From the beginning, co-founder Steve Jobs was adamant about keeping Apple technology proprietary — and controlling as much as he could about the products and how they are used. That attitude helped the company establish a reputation for reliability and user-friendliness, but it has had other repercussions since Jobs’ death.

Whereas Google has been proactive in pursuing the right to advertise online gambling products, Apple has been equally gung-ho about making it difficult to get them onto its platform at all. It has banned the use of HTML 5 for any commercial application, for instance, and made it clear up front that its new Apple Card will never be usable for gambling purposes.

Although Apple is not a competitor to Google in the ad space, it does offer real estate for developers to advertise in its App Store. It is probably safe to assume that it will not be seeking regulatory approval to include online gambling apps any time soon.

Apple has not disclosed how it will handle Google’s willingness to serve gambling ads via AdMob when the apps in question are being used on iOS devices.

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Tech giants critical for US online gambling

It’s good news for online gambling companies that Google is in their corner. It seems to be making good progress in terms of getting regulatory approval for advertising.

That trend will likely continue into 2020 and beyond as more states pass online gambling legislation, and more products come to market.

At the same time, we’re likely to see a growing rift between pro-gambling companies like Google and “anti-gambling companies” like Apple. And those differences in approach could end up shaping the market in a big way.

Advertising is just one component of that, of course, but it’s an important one.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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