UK Problem Gamblers Beset With Online Casino Ads From Google
Problem gamblers seeking help through Google searches are being targeted by online casinos and being exposed to gambling ads.
Google’s algorithm has not made the distinction between ordinary gamblers and problem gamblers. Problem gamblers who carry out Google searches are being targeted with gambling ads that offer them thousands of pounds in bonuses. There are also some sites that are even providing them with means of evading software used to help problem gamblers avoid betting.
When problem gamblers search for Gamstop, which is a program in the UK that allows individuals to self-exclude from online gaming activities, Google offers them a list of offshore-based online casinos that are not included in self-exclusion lists.
The ads resulting from Google’s algorithm entices problem gamblers to gamble when they are most vulnerable and trying to overcome their addiction. This appears to be a deliberate tactic used by online casino operators to prey on vulnerable gamblers.
After Google was made aware of the issue, the company acted quickly and confirmed that the accounts associated with the ads were suspended. However, some of those gambling ads still remain as of today. A “Gamstop UK” search on Google resulted in ads near the top that listed casinos touting their ability to evade self-exclusion services for gambling.
Additionally, problem gamblers were exposed to free spins offered by online casinos based in locations such as Cyprus and Curacao, which allows them to avoid complying with UK gambling regulations. The Gamstop site was found on page 5 of the Google search.
UK MPs Not Happy With Google Search
Carolyn Harris, an MP from Labour and the chair of a group to stem gambling harms, described the ads as immoral. Harris added that, while she doesn’t blame Google specifically, she views the whole self-exclusion system as difficult to enact, especially with serious doubts about the willingness of the gambling industry to assist.
The parliamentary group, comprised of MPs from different parties, is scheduled to meet next week to discuss the issue of online ads that compromise efforts to help problem gamblers overcome their issues.
Fiona Palmer, the chief executive of Gamstop, also expressed concern that Google exposes problem gamblers to online casino ads. She stated that problem gamblers’ wishes to exclude themselves from gambling must be respected, and not used to involve them further into gambling.
Despite Google’s efforts to enforce its rules protecting problem gamblers, online gambling operators and affiliates continue to advertise on Google, explicitly touting the sites’ ability to evade self-exclusion registries.
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