Italians are often depicted as being a passionate people, and it appears this passion has spilt over into their leadership’s vehement disapproval of online gambling. In 2018 the Dignity Decree was written into law and made all forms of gambling advertising illegal:
“… in order to better protect consumers and more effectively counter pathological gambling, all types of advertising regarding gambling and betting offering cash winnings, posted directly or indirectly on any media or through any other means (sport, cultural or artistic event, television or radio broadcast, print newspaper or any other print publication, billboards or the internet), shall be banned with immediate effect as soon as the Dignity Decree enters into force, i.e. on 14 July 2018.”
In addition to banning advertising via both online and traditional media channels, the Dignity Decree further outlined a plan for the dissolution of gambling sponsorships of events, products and even services.
Google Drops the Ball
When the decree was initially penned, and then passed into law, Google agreed to comply fully with Italy’s demand for a gambling free region. This compliance came in the form of not only removing gambling terms from the Google AdWords and Pay Per Click (PPC) dashboard but also not allowing indexed sites to rank for gambling terms when searched for from Italy.
However, the Italian Communications Regulatory Authority (AGCOM) has announced that it is currently investigating Google as it believes the company to be in breach of Article 9.
The investigation is reported to focus on Google Inc, Google Ireland Limited and Google Italy and was triggered by several gambling ads for international gambling sites being shown to Italian Google users.
Will There Be Any Real Consequences?
Italy is one of the only member states of the European Union to have imposed a blanket ban on online gambling, which has raised questions about the validity of the ban in terms of the EU free trade agreements.
In addition to being a controversial ruling, the Dignity Decree lists its fines as “5% of the value of the sponsorship or advertising contract and, in any case, of no less than 50.000 euro” for each breach.
It is highly unlikely that Google will reveal the value of the advertising campaign in question, and even should they then face fines of a few hundred thousand Euros it is hardly worth going to court over. With a total net worth of more than $1 Trillion, they will most likely pay the fine without contest to allow them to get back to business in the region.