Lawsuit Filed Over Search & Gambling Ads

The longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members looks specifically at guidelines from Google and Overture about online gambling ads and examines why some ads seem to escape those rules. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Yahoo, Google and several other major web sites and companies (including Search Engine Watch’s publisher, Jupitermedia) have been hit with a lawsuit saying they carry online gambling ads in violation of California law. This comes after two of the major search companies earlier this year made moves that were supposed to remove online gambling ads entirely.

The suit was filed on behalf of all Californians and specifically names two. One of those used search engines to find online gambling sites and lost $100,000, it is claimed.

While online gambling within California may be illegal, it seems unclear whether just carrying ads for online gambling that are seen by those within the state is illegal. The lawsuit asks that this be deemed the case:

By this action, plaintiffs seek to have defendants’ paid advertisement of Internet gambling in California declared illegal, seek to enjoin defendants from advertising unlicensed Internet gambling businesses to persons in California.

As I’ve written before, removing ads won’t prevent access to such material through editorial listings. That plaintiff who lost money could have just as easily gotten to an online gambling site through a non-paid listing on a search engine. The only difference is that the search engine itself would have earned no money off the click.

The filing attempts in one place to make ads for “illegal gambling” seem different because of the “astounding” clickrate of $12.97 shown in one instance compared to “modest” prices for other products and services.

Of course, terms like “mesothelioma” and “structured settlement” have consistently hit Overture’s $100 max price per click for months. Ironically, law firms looking for clients have driven up those prices. So high price, fair to say, does not indicate the illegality of a product or service.

Both Yahoo and Google were to have removed ads for online casinos by the end of April, after apparent pressure from the US government. Nevertheless, they continued on — and still seem to be appearing.

The lawsuit documents some examples. Posts within our Search Engine Watch Forum also support this. The version of this article for Search Engine Watch members also goes on to illustrate how such ads continue.

In reaction to the US government pressure, a new lawsuit just filed on behalf of Casino City seeks claims that online gaming advertisements are protected by First Amendment free speech rights.

Want to comment or discuss this story? Come join in at our forums in this thread: Gambling Ads On Search Sites.

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