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YouTube Unveils New User Controls That Could See Gambling Ads Blocked

Ads on SmartphonesEver popular video site YouTube is set to hand their users a raft of new controls that they can use on the platform, and one of those is limiting the number of ads they see from certain categories.

Chief among those will be alcohol and gambling content, with viewers able to completely block such ads if they wish to.

The move has come after the video giant completed a period of consultation and user feedback, with the ability to limit ads in ‘certain categories’ a high priority among those who use the site.

It was back in 2008 that Google, who own YouTube, first allowed licensed gambling operators to advertise on their platforms, but with the quantity of such content increasing in recent times – with many ads shown prior to the 9pm watershed – there is a concern that children and under 18s are being exposed to too many of them.

Announcing the decision, Debbie Weinstein – the vice president of YouTube – wrote: “We’re launching a new control in ad settings, enabling people to see fewer alcohol ads, with gambling as an additional option.”

Users of the site already have the option to personalise the ads that they see, however the new feature – which will come to the UK in 2021 – will allow individuals to disallow certain advertisements altogether. As of right now, Google and YouTube ads are ‘contextual’, which is something of a loophole as a story about gambling addiction, for example, could also feature an ad for an online casino or sports betting brand alongside it.

And it’s possible that the idea will be rolled out across Google’s product range, meaning that web users can opt not to see gambling and alcohol-tailored content when browsing the search engine.

Perhaps the move could not at a better time. According to Google’s own data, the number of web searches for gambling sites and keywords has increased since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March, and that ‘impressions’ – the number of times an appears on screen – have more than doubled.

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It was a revolutionary moment back in 2009 when Google allowed gambling ads in their search engine and subsidiary sites like YouTube for the first time.

These would only appear when a user had confirmed that they were over the age of 18, although – as mentioned – there are ‘back door’ ways that casino brands can advertise to minors unknowingly.

Google also opened the door for online gambling firms to advertise on the ‘pay per click’ section of their search engine, and that saw the majority of industry advertising to move online – an annual spend of around £1.2 billion.

Indeed, gambling operators have moved away from TV ads, by and large, with a ban on advertising during live sports broadcasts voluntarily agreed by a number of major players in the industry.

The Betting and Gaming Council, which lobbies for positive change in the industry, commented on YouTube’s new measures: “We have previously urged Google and other tech platforms to provide the option to stop seeing gambling adverts. We welcome this step in the right direction and hope to see it launch in the UK very soon.”