In the fallout from the crackdown of Americans patronizing offshore gambling sites, The Big Three search engines, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have agreed to a hefty financial settlement.
The settlement is the result of a government probe alleging the three search engine companies promoted online gambling via advertising. Officials said the companies were in violation of anti-gambling laws by profiting from their advertising of online gambling sites dating back to 1997.
The Justice Department released a statement that revealed the Microsoft settlement to be $21 million dollars. Of that amount, $4.5 million is to be paid to the US and $7.5 million paid to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a contribution.
In addition to paying the $21 million dollar settlement, Microsoft has also pledged to spend at least $9 million dollars on an online anti-gambling Ad campaign. The new public service campaign will target young internet users, to discourage them from gambling online. The Ads will also stress that online gaming is an illegal activity in the US.
While not paying quite as much as Microsoft, Yahoo reached a settlement of $7.5 million, and Google will pay $3 million. Yahoo also agreed to fund it’s own anti-gambling public service ads, but no budget for the Ads was announced.
None of the three companies admitted to any of the allegations or of any wrongdoing.
US Attorney Catherine Hanaway, while commenting on the settlements said, ”These sums add to the over 40 million dollars in forfeitures and back taxes this office has already recovered in recent years from operators of these remote-control illegal gambling enterprises. Honest taxpayers and gambling industry personnel who do follow the law suffer from those who promote illegal online behavior."
There are several state statutes and municipal laws by which the Big Three could have been prosecuted if the Justice Department had decided to take them to court. The laws most commonly used to prosecute offenders of illegal online gambling are the Federal Wagering Excise Tax law and the Federal Wire Wager Act.