Google has stunned the gaming community by prohibiting all forms of gambling advertising on AdWords, including bingo and play-for-fun sites.
The ruling, which came into effect on Tuesday, stops companies using AdWords if they promote online casinos, sportsbooks, lotteries (except State lotteries), bingo or poker sites.
Websites that provide tips, odds and handicapping or software facilitating online casinos and gambling are also now banned from advertising.
So too are affiliates with the primary purpose of driving traffic to gambling sites, gambling-related ebooks, play-for-fun sites and gambling tutorial sites.
In a similar but less dramatic move, Yahoo! restricted gambling ads from 28 May, forbidding ads with incentives like 'play now' in the copy to appear in its paid search listings.
"It's an incredibly shortsighted move," said Paul Hugget, online -mar-keting manager at online sports betting firm Blue Square, of Google's decision. "This is proof that there's a nega-tive stigma against this community, one that a while ago could perhaps be justified but certainly not now, as regulations are strict and adhered to."
Google claims advertisers were informed ahead the policy change, but NMA understands major brands and agencies were unaware of the move.
Simon Mansell, MD of TBG London, which represents Sky Poker, said, "It's introducing new rules that just don't make sense," he said. "It's -frustrating that it's Google deciding what's evil online, going against public opinion perhaps."
Andrew Girdwood, head of search at Bigmouthmedia agreed. "The move has again shown Google's stance towards affiliates, which are vital for both brands and Google," he said.
Google refused to expand on a prepared statement, which read:"Google advertising platforms are designed to provide users with relevant, targeted and useful commercial information. Our advertising program is governed by a set of policies based on several factors, including user and customer experience and compliance considerations.
"We have made this change to ensure that the information provided to users is both accurate and useful. We listened carefully to user feedback when making this decision."