People who are suffering from problem gambling and gambling addiction are searching for help on Google but are controversially being shown advertisements for gambling sites. These ads promote enticing bonuses whilst stating they are available to users who have implemented software specifically to protect them from gambling online.
Reports have shown Google searches for the programme Gamstop, which enables users to restrict their access to online gambling sites, offer up adverts for casinos that are not included in this self-exclusion programme. This poses a major threat to those who are at-risk of, or suffering from, problem gambling, giving those who are trying to seek help for gambling problems a way to indulge in them.
The adverts that were displayed on Google’s first search page for “Gamstop” were reportedly promoting things like a ranking table of UK mobile casinos that were not included on the Gamstop scheme, specifically stating this as part of the ad. These links lead to attractive offers for new customers on the gambling site, including free plays for online roulette, slot machines, and other classic casino games.
These adverts for online sites that are outside the reaches of Gamstop have been placed on this page not by the actual sites, but through third party companies. However, casino sites pay intermediaries who find new, potentially regular, customers for the site.
This is not the first time gambling adverts have targeted problem gamblers seeking help, last October a similar ad promoting a casino app was banned after targeting those searching “How to unsubscribe from all gambling” on Google.
Quoted by The Independent, Gamstop’s chief executive Fiona Palmer has commented that Gamstop “are working with Google and other search engines to ensure that when people search for information about self-excluding from online gambling our website is prominently displayed and these websites are not included within the search results.”
A spokesperson from Rufus Casino commented: “Any new operators in the industry must have a customer-first approach and must adhere to the requirements of responsible gambling.”
The APPG (all-party parliamentary group) has planned to meet this week, where it will investigate the issue of these online ads, and their attempt to reduce the effectiveness of schemes helping vulnerable people to stop themselves from falling into problem gambling.