AGCOM Fines Meta €5.85M for Gambling Ad Violations in Italy
The Italian Communications Regulatory Authority (AGCOM) has imposed a fine of €5.85 million on Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, for violating Italy’s laws on gambling advertising.
AGCOM’s investigation uncovered promotional content related to gaming and betting on 18 social media profiles, including five on Instagram and 13 on Facebook. The regulator also identified 32 sponsored posts involving videos or images aimed at promoting online gaming and betting activities.
Ruling Against Meta
On 20 December, AGCOM ruled against Meta, holding the company responsible as the owner of the dissemination means. The authority asserted that Meta was aware of the illegality of the content, stating that Meta is not merely a passive technical hosting platform but also provides advertising services.
Meta was deemed liable for only five of the 18 flagged accounts. The company had removed 11 profiles following contact by the regulator. Alongside the fine, AGCOM issued an official notice and takedown order.
Fines on Other Video Platforms
This sanction follows AGCOM’s recent fines on video platforms YouTube (€2.5 million) and Twitch (€900,000) for similar breaches in gambling advertising.
The violation by Meta relates to Italy’s Dignity Decree, effective from July 2018, aimed at combating problem gambling and addiction. The decree imposes a strict ban on all forms of gambling and betting advertising, including sports team jerseys, stadiums, and various media platforms.
Criticism from the EGBA
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has criticized Italy’s ban, arguing that it inadvertently promotes a black market. EGBA Secretary-General Maarten Haijer expressed concerns in October, highlighting the difficulty for Italian consumers to differentiate between licensed and unlicensed gambling websites due to the lack of adequate advertising.
Our Comment on the Article
AGCOM’s fine on Meta underscores the stringent regulatory environment in Italy regarding gambling advertising. The enforcement actions against major online platforms like Meta, YouTube, and Twitch reflect Italy’s commitment to its Dignity Decree aimed at protecting consumers from gambling-related harm.
However, the criticism from industry bodies like the EGBA highlights the complexities and unintended consequences of such regulatory measures, particularly in distinguishing between regulated and unregulated gambling operators.