In a surprise move, Google has agreed to block gambling websites from its search results in Russia – a move that comes after it was fined $7,500 by the Russian regulator.
Roskomnadzor – the Russian telecom watchdog – is responsible for blocking websites that don’t comply with the country’s licensing regulations, and it’s estimated by analysts that the regulator blocked 14,500 different online gambling websites in 2018.
The majority of gambling-related websites are blocked in Russia, with 888, Bet365, Betfair, Betfred, Betsson, Bwin, Dafabet, Ladbrokes, Unibet and William Hill all blocked.
To ensure that global internet giants like Google are blocking the required sites, Russia operates what’s known as the federal state information system (FGIS). This information system contains a list of known gambling (and other blocked areas) so that companies can cross-reference this database automatically, to prevent their internet listings from showing blocked sites.
As is normally the case with Google, they initially refused to filter their search results according to Russian regulation, and as such, they were fined RUB500,000 ($7,500) by the Russian watchdog. As we’ve seen in the past, this would normally set Google off down a legal route, where they appeal to courts – but in a surprise move, the tech giant has agreed to pay the fine, and has begun updating its search results to exclude the gambling websites, as requested by Russia.
There is no clear evidence as to why Google is abiding so readily, but it could have something to do with a recent announcement from Russian officials stating that tech giants who ignore rulings could face fines of up to 1% of annual gross revenue. For Google, that could amount to around $6.4 million, based on their earnings in Russia in 2017.
Interestingly, the fine handed down to Google was smaller than the maximum amount permitted under Russian law, and the popular Russian news agency – TASS – quoted Roskomnadzor boss, Alexander Zharov as acknowledging this.
It remains unclear as to why Google agreed – but Doskomnadzor’s deputy chief Vadim Subbotin told Interfax – another Russian news agency – that Google itself could be blocked if it didn’t abide to the rules and regulations set by the Russian government.
He was found to have said: “If we come to a dead end … the state makes changes to the law, and for the non-execution of Russian laws the most severe punishment is possible – such as blocking.”
Some gambling links still remain on Google’s platform in Russia however, so it remains to be seen as to how the tech giant will move forward from here.