On Google and Gambling

Google started allowing gambling ads within their paid search results last week and while this did cause a flurry of activity at many agencies, after the excitement wore off (faster than the taste of a cheap champagne) I was left feeling somewhat hollow.

The lack of gaming ads in Google has become a bit of a joke in some areas, with Google’s geeky origins often mentioned in somewhat unfavourable terms. Google was held up as a paragon of purity, cleaning the paid search results of the perceived smut of the PPC (pills, porn, casino) results. I never understood, it but heard of certain groups who lauded this decision and used it as a justification of their particular world views.

No longer can Google be that paragon. Fallen from it’s lofty height, the once mighty giant of all things pure and clean has… no wait, when has that ever ever the case?

The decision recently to enable bidding on trademark terms had many businesses up in arms and some search experts behind the scenes talking in hushed voices about money grabbing, stock prices and morals. This recent gaming decision has sparked this same conversation. Why though has Google become so tightly associated with “ethics” and “morals”?

Google is a large company and like any other large company, they have a duty of care to their employees and a responsibility to their stockholders. They do not have a requirement to be moral and yet the perception emerged. Perhaps it was the “do no evil” motto which implied a moral stand within the company. Google has emphasized it’s green credentials, social responsibility and other fuzzy, feel-good corporate policies over the last few years. Perhaps this lead them to be seen as the moral champions.

The fact that Google enabled gambling ads just now, in 2008 in response to a decision made in 2005 seems slow at best. I have trouble believing it was done to bring them in line with anything but projected earnings growth. Some estimations have placed possible annual revenue anywhere from $100 – $300 million and that seems a fairly compelling argument. Since they have data from before they imposed the ban they will be aware just how much they stand to earn.

The discrimination against non-local companies also seems to me a double edged sword. While I appreciate the possibility of adding more jobs through the necessity of moving a registered office to the UK, and the tax revenue, part of me still balks at the discrimination by region. Gibraltar is a nice place to live and work though :-)

The weak requirement that a link to gambleaware.co.uk be present on any landing page is not going to prevent gambling addiction nor will it necessarily influence an adult any more than the drink aware mentions on alcohol posters does. Adults – and children – still binge, still drink to excess and still kill themselves and harm others with alcohol.

Regrettably I cannot see this as anything more than a money grab, cynical old cow that I am. Same for the trademark decision. I’ve seen the graphs from that and so I know just what’s happening. The board must be pleased as punch and it has nothing to do with ethics, morals, going green or “do no evil”.

Google has been spying on us for ages and claiming a right to anything we do on and with its properties. It has grown to become an effective monopoly in the UK and tightened it’s strangle-hold on other regions and yet still we almost deify Google. Has Google replaced God and religion for the geekier members of our society? That’s a whole other blog post :-)

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4 Responses to “On Google and Gambling”

  1. Pickle says:

    Your post reminded me of the last book I read – The Glass Bees. Written by Ernst Junger in 1957, Junger wrote that technology is pursued not to accelerate progress but to intensify power. A fantastic allegory that is all too real today.

    http://www.nybooks.com/shop/product-file/09/theg9/introduction.pdf

  2. Wow… That’s quite the parallel to draw! He was rather influenced by his times and I can also see the parallel with what was happening during the first and second world wars. I hasten to add, I’m not comparing Google to Nazi Germany!

    I’m glad the post evoked such an interesting comparison though – Thanks Pickle!

  3. Pickle says:

    Yes. That sort of comparison tends to stop all discussion cold. Geekier members of society would certainly recognize the writer of the book’s introduction.

  4. erik tyler says:

    I still play once a week in the basement with the guys. No money of course :)

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