Policy update

Google shuts down Florida sports betting ads following federal judge ruling

Reading time 2:28 min

Google’s online advertising platform, Google Ads, no longer allows sports betting ads in Florida. The update follows a ruling earlier this week by U.S. federal district court judge Dabney L. Friedrich that invalidated the compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe, thus making sports betting in Florida illegal.

“In November 2021, the Google Ads Gambling and games policy United States country-specifics will be updated to disallow Sports Betting in Florida,” Google said in a statement on its support page. “We will begin enforcing the policy clarification on November 24, 2021.”

Google Ads’ rules support responsible gambling advertising as long as they abide by local gambling laws and industry standards, according to its policy page. Sports betting ads in the US can be placed through Google’s platform as long as they promote “state-licensed entities in certain states where legal,” which is no longer the case of the Seminole Tribe and Florida.

Should ads or extensions not follow Google’s policies they may be subject to disapproval, which would make the ad not run until the policy violation is fixed and the ad is eligible. Accounts engaging in several violations or in a particularly serious one might be suspended, meaning all ads are also suspended and the account stops running.

The Seminoles were ordered to halt their sports betting operations after judge Friedrich found their compact with the state to violate federal Indian gaming law. The agreement the tribe had reached with the state called for the Seminoles to pay the state at least $2.5 billion over the first five years in exchange for sole control over sports wagering, plus the option to add roulette and craps to its operations.

The compact, which was signed earlier this year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, allowed bettors to place wagers anywhere within the state through mobile devices, as long as these were processed through computer servers on tribal property. While Florida and the tribe argued this constituted betting on tribal lands, Friedrich called the model a “fiction.”

“This Court cannot accept that fiction,” the judge wrote. “When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by ‘deeming’ their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not.”

A day after the ruling, the tribe filed a notice of appeal and a “motion for stay pending appeal,” asking the judge to tell them if she was going to put a hold on her own ruling. Moreover, the tribe also continued to collect wagers through its Hard Rock Sportsbook: Florida bettors were still able to place bets as of Wednesday morning.

By continuing to accept and process bets through its app without the motion of stay, legal experts believe the Seminole Tribe could be potentially opening itself up to legal repercussions. However, officials for the tribal nation have defended the decision to continue operations.

“The tribe’s online sports betting authorized by the compact is now in operation, and is generating millions in revenue per week,’’ said Marcellus W. Osceola, chairman of the tribe, in a statement filed with the court. “The tribe is using these funds to pay back the development costs for its online sportsbook, make revenue-sharing payments to the state and fund important tribal programs.”

In the motion for a stay, lawyers with the tribe argued that the ruling will cause “irreparable harm” to the Seminoles’ sovereignty and economic interest “if a stay is not issued” pending resolution of the legal issues posed on the tribe’s appeal. Lawyers claim the tribe would lose “substantial revenue” should sports betting operations be ceased.

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