Place Your Bets: Google Will Finally Lift Its Ban on Fantasy Sports Ads

The change will roll out in select states later this month

Until now, Google was the only major digital network that refused to take advertising dollars from the fantasy sports space.
Getty, Google, Pixabay

Google is preparing to lift its longstanding ban on advertisements for fantasy sports services, Adweek has learned. The change—which will be rolling out in select states by the end of this month—will allow media buyers to advertise across Google Ads and DV360, offering media buyers access to the booming, high-intent audiences across Google Search, YouTube and more.

“Advertisers will need to meet minimum creative requirements and must hold state licenses where required to promote their products in targeted states,” Google noted in a policy update explaining the change. “If advertisers operate in a state where no license is required, they must hold a state license in at least one other state.” Media buyers interested in promoting these “real money gaming” services must apply for certification through the company.

Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The overall market for sports betting reached an all-time high last year, jumping to $41.7 billion, according to the American Gaming Association.

Until now, Google was the only major digital network that refused to take advertising dollars from the fantasy sports space, according to Mike Raffensperger, CMO of the sports betting brand FanDuel.

Since the company’s inception roughly a decade ago, he said, the company was free to advertise across other major networks, including Facebook and Twitter. But if sites like FanDuel wanted to reach American consumers across Google’s networks, the only way was by advertising one of their “free-to-play” offerings, rather than the services offering cash payouts.

Outside of the U.S., however, Google’s been no stranger to the world of sports betting. Chris Harrison, the company’s head of financial trading and egaming services, told Gambling.com that Google has a “long and varied history” supporting ads for legalized sports betting in European, Australian and South American markets, while a recent ad policy update announced similar changes would roll into Indian markets as well.

“We are trying to get the balance right between protecting users, recognizing client needs and then realizing there is an unregulated industry,” Harrison said. “We understand that we have a role to play in allowing the regulated operators to position themselves favorably against the unregulated industry.”

The standards surrounding sports betting are still in flux, more than a year after the Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, which throttled sports wagering services in most states countrywide. Since then, more than two dozen states either have fully legalized the practice or will have similar laws on the books soon enough.

Navigating a patchwork of state-by-state regulation is a handful, even for a company of Google’s scale, which might be the reason that we’re only seeing companywide action now, Raffensperger said.

“It takes a lot of investment into technology and engineering to roll out these changes on a state-by-state, localized level,” he said. “And even though Google might be interested in this opportunity, this is them trying to do things responsibly.”

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