Sorry, But Google Ads Aren't Driving People To Gamble

from the get-real dept

Google has apparently banned advertisements for online gambling operations in the UK for years. Even though online gambling is legal in the UK, there were strict rules on advertising that Google didn’t want to have to deal with. However, those rules have now been relaxed, so Google is now starting to accept those ads again… and are being attacked by a variety of different groups, including the Church of England, claiming that the global financial crisis could be made worse if Google drives people to gamble.

Can we take a break here and inject a little common sense into the discussion? Google is not the guilty party here.

An ad on Google is not going to drive someone to gamble. If someone wants to do some online gambling, they’ll find a way to do it. If they do a search on online gambling, they’ll find plenty of sites in the organic results, let alone the paid spots. And it means they sought it out. This isn’t to deny that some people have a problem with being unable to moderate their gambling, but to blame it on Google ads is simply grandstanding over something that has no impact on the issue.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Sorry, But Google Ads Aren't Driving People To Gamble”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Agreed. I actually work for one of the UK gambling companies (albeit one actually based in Gibraltar for tax reasons). As with everything else, the majority of people who gamble are OK with it – the odd flutter, a couple of games in the casino, etc.

There are some who go to far, but there are strict rules on how to deal with people who go too far. The problem is, some people go too far before anyone else realises it. That’s their problem, frankly. Just as the actions of an alcoholic shouldn’t determine how the rest of us are allowed to drink, so there are some gambling addicts who should not be assumed to be a majority but helped when necessary.

SteveD says:

I head a BBC Radio 4 interview with one of the UK Google execs on the way home from work, say 5:35-ish. The interview actually started with a discussion of Googles big rise in profits, but went on to talk about the advertising issue.

The exec made it clear that the change in Googles policy was as a result of the change in UK law, and that the shift in their policies was simply bringing them into line with those of companies in the rest of the UK.

The interviewer had one card to play; he asked if Google, as such a large and influential business with a good public image, shouldn’t it hold itself to a higher standard? The exec responded with the same line, so the interviewer went on to point out that if you put ‘gambling help’ into Google the advertising hits were all for gambling companies, including one that offered £100-free credit.

The exec confessed his surprise, but when on to point out that due to the way the system worked, over time these ads would get filtered out in favor of ones people found useful, and there the interview ended.

About a quarter of an hour later at the end of the same program they read out the editors pick of readers letters, ending from one guy who’d heard the interview and straight away put ‘gambling help’ into google, getting the three ads the interviewer mentioned. Over the next few minutes he hit refresh, and one by one the links disappeared…

He concluded by saying whatever the morality of the issue, Google were indeed very good at what they did.

FredW (profile) says:

The must do something

The ads have to be effective at something or someone would not pay for them.

What that something may be is another thing altogether? Is it causing on-line gamblers to switch whom they gamble with? Does it tempt new people who have never gambled? Or do they advertise to reach the addicted who can’t say no?

To some degree for the addicted. This is akin to them seeing ads on TV, hearing them on the radio, seeing it on billboards and in the grocery store. Popping up in every day activities they can’t avoid, tempting them.

My dad did door to door sales and said the best house to go to on a block is one with a sign that said “No Solicitors”. Because usually there will be a board housewife at home who can’t say “No” to a salesman and a husband who has just put up a sign advertising that she is there.

I don’t think their goal is “lets catch those addicted to gambling and drive them to our sites”, but more along the lines of “advertising at goolge has driven up profits 10%”. They don’t really want to look and see if those any of those folks are the addicted or desperate. Their money spends as well as everyone elses.

Ben Matthews (profile) says:

Slight disagreement

I agree that google is certainly not the guilty party here, but implying so does something worse, it removes responsibility from the acting party.

Frankly, I think Mike took a little bit of an over step in saying that an ad won’t drive people to gamble. In part, thats exactly what the person paying for the advertising wants to happen, and google’s job is to provide a platform for that advertisers to do that. Google/the advertiser would consider it a success if they are able to make the viewer decide to gamble based on the ad.

Where the Church needs to take a step back is that someone has every right to say no to gambling. If they are looking for help for gambling and the ad comes up, it is not googles responsibility, moral or otherwise, to special case that user. That whole implication says that google is more responsible for that user’s choices than the user themself.

Curtis says:

Going After the Wrong Target?

It seems strange to me that people blame Google for advertising something that is legal in the UK. If you have a problem with gambling then go after the gambling companies. Maybe, they should be forced to advertise a “Get Help with Gambling Addiction” for every “Gamble Here” message they deliver. I believe we seem to miss who is causing the problem when we have social and legal problems. Next thing you know we will get Ford to quit building cars because someone used them in a drug deal. Blame the drug dealer.

Noah Vail (profile) says:

It isn't about changing intention.

It’s about creating and adding to an environment.

The ads provide additional exposure to gambling, along with poker sets in the toy isle, the sports-ification of poker, and an increasing number of youth indulging in the habit.

It isn’t the sole cause of a rise in gambling, but it creates a larger profile of exposure to gambling. And that is a primary cause of gambling addiction.


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