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Gambling Ads Posing Difficulty for Big Tech

Penny December 31, 2023

2023 has been a year punctuated by many different attempts for several jurisdictions to try and get a handle on the promotion of gambling, be that sports betting or casino. However, as we pass into another year that will most likely give us a new list of proposals and concerns from governments and lobby groups around the world, one of the biggest companies on the planet has found itself facing criticism and scrutiny for its role in the promotion of gaming. Could this be a catalyst for a greater change in the advertising industry or does it just indicate an increasing expression of authority in the European market?

Zuckerberg Feels the Pressure 

As we close out this year, it brings down the curtain on some big moves to curb what has been seen as the Wild West of gambling advertisement in Europe. The UK released its white paper on gambling that highlighted the work that needs to be done in soccer to address the ever-present that is sport betting, which has led to all teams in England’s top flight agreeing to a restriction on betting brands being their main jersey sponsors. However, according to a report in  Reuters, it’s now Facebook and Meta that are in the firing line as Italian authorities saw fit to fine them for the offense of breaching the country’s recent gambling ad ban. And, while there is no indication that the tech giant itself personally breached any of the Mediterranean nation’s laws, it displays the difficulty of companies and services that act as publishers or platforms when its users can flaunt legislation to advertise gambling.


Reports coming out suggest that the problem arises from accounts on the platform being used to promote gambling to Italian users. It comes after the nation moved to block gambling advertisements partially, including in soccer, where it has been a hot-button issue for some time. As a result of this breach of Italian law, the tech behemoth has been fined around $6 million, showing just how serious European authorities are about the unlicensed promotion of casinos and betting brands. With this news, it’s clear that the discussions around gambling and its place in the continent’s economy are not just hot air and that the governments behind them are keen to back any decisions they make with action. It represents a clear step away from the more liberal, operator-friendly approach that the region has become famous for in the last number of decades. Instead, it displays a much more authoritative approach to dealing with an industry that many think has been allowed to set its own boundaries. Perhaps not a suprise, when we’ve seen recent changes across Europe, including gambling reform in Ireland.


Does This Mean Big Changes for Big Tech?

It’s unclear exactly what this means for Meta, the parent company that owns Facebook and Instagram. The company hasn’t yet spoken on the ruling by the Italians, which would suggest that we’re still to hear the company’s side of the story. It remains to be seen whether they will challenge the decision and invoke their role as a platform rather than a publisher to defend themselves from the recent decision. It wouldn’t be unheard of for a company of this size to challenge a nation’s legal decision and win. In fact, it would be more unusual if Mark Zuckerberg’s company wasn’t to make a big statement, especially as he has set a precedent for going before governments and defending his business. However, unfortunately for Meta, the fine doesn’t solely rest on the use of its services to promote gambling by individual users.


Part of the fine revolves around the company’s inability to ensure that sponsored posts directing users to gambling sites were not served to Italian users. As such, it seems unlikely that the hierarchy would be able to challenge the ruling entirely, given that there was a clear breach within their processes. It also follows Alphabet, one of the biggest online media companies that there has ever been, being fined for gambling ad issues on both YouTube and Google, according to KOHA. It’s evident that a crackdown is happening and will continue to grow as legislators look to stretch their muscle to keep what they see as a troublesome industry in check. As more and more legislation gets put forward, though, it will be interesting to see if any of the media behemoths online and offline stand against any changes and look to push back on impositions on their ability to function as advertisers and publishing platforms.

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