Internet search engine Google has changed its policy to allow ads from gambling companies. The news comes as a rise in problem gambling hits the headlines.
The change, effective from tomorrow, follows news that a British gambling helpline had 25 per cent more calls from problem gamblers last year, with callers reporting an average debt of £17,500.
The new policy means that registered gambling companies will be able to advertise to Google users in England, Scotland and Wales.
Ads from overseas gambling firms will also be permitted if they are licensed to advertise in their own countries.
The ads will not appear in searches if the ‘safe search’ option is turned on.
It is thought that the change could mean millions in extra revenue for the internet giant.
Hannah Kimuiu, an advertising industry expert, said: “The gambling advertising industry is probably worth £100 million a year. A lot of advertisers have had to half their budgets in the past year. They’ve got to recover this money somewhere.”
Google UK’s James Cashmore said: “We hope this change will enhance the search experience for users and help advertisers connect with interested consumers.”
Google bosses said recently they “do not generally take a position on issues outside of our field, especially not social issues”.
The company faced legal action earlier this year from The Christian Institute after it refused to allow religious groups to advertise on abortion.
In an out-of-court settlement with the Institute, Google changed its policy with world-wide effect.
The company has also provoked criticism for opposing a campaign to protect the status of marriage in California.