Google has extended a ban on online gambling providers' use of AdWords to include even services that are free to consumers.
Both Yahoo! and Google outlawed ads for internet casinos and poker services back in 2004, drawing ire from the industry, which many say benefits from online advertising more than others.
Now the ban in the UK has been extended to apply also to sites that help users to gamble but on which no money changes hands. Many commercial gambling sites use initial free-play options to attract customers to upgraded pay-for gaming options.
The new policy covers gambling tutorials, sites offering play-for-fun features and those promoting gambling-related content. According to AdWords' revised content policy:
"Advertising is not permitted for online casinos, sports books, bingo and affiliates with the primary purpose of driving traffic to online gambling sites.
"This includes, but is not limited to, the promotion of online casinos and gambling activities, sports books, lotteries, bingo, poker, sites that provide tips, odds and handicapping, software facilitating online casinos and gambling, gambling tutoring online, gambling related eBooks, sites where the primary purpose is 'play for fun' gambling, or casino games of skill, and affiliates with the primary purpose of driving traffic to online gambling sites."
The ban comes as the UK effectively liberalises laws on gambling. The government has pledged to prosecute overseas gaming firms advertising online in the UK under the Gaming Act 1968, which states:
"There is no prohibition on advertisements which 'inform' the public of gaming facilities overseas, as long as those advertisements do not invite such persons to gamble."
The laws will change this September, however, when the Gambling Act 2005 comes into force.
A Google spokesperson said:
"Google has always prohibited the advertising of things like bingo, poker and online casinos.
"However, having looked at this issue very carefully and considered the views of our users, we have decided to extend our policy.
"While we respect people's differing views on gambling - and support freedom of expression - we believe that this new policy is simpler for everyone to understand and more in tune with users' wishes."