Lottoland Takes Legal Action Against Google in South Africa for Restricting Its Advertising Opportunities

Posted on: July 20, 2023, 07:49h. 

Last updated on: July 20, 2023, 07:49h.

Lottoland, which has based its success on allowing bettors to wager on lottery results, is facing off against Google. The South African branch of Lottoland accuses the tech giant of blocking its advertising due to its business model. Both parties are now awaiting a court ruling.

A Lottoland display stand at the ICE Totally Gaming Show
A Lottoland display stand at the ICE Totally Gaming Show. The company is asking for a South African court’s help in forcing Google to allow it to advertise. (Image: Clip Stands via Pinterest)

Lottoland South Africa has recently filed a claim against Google, alleging that the tech giant has prohibited the operator from using its advertising services platform. The claim seeks an injunction or a permanent reversal of the ban.

On Tuesday, the Competition Tribunal of South Africa agreed to hear the case, with legal representatives from both sides presenting their arguments on Wednesday. After only a few hours, the court adjourned and is expected to issue its ruling either this week or next.

Discrimination and Prejudice

Lottoland, which obtained a license to offer fixed-odds betting in South Africa in 2019, claims that Google specifically targeted it and prevented it from advertising on the company’s platforms. It accuses Google of discrimination, highlighting that other gambling entities can advertise without interference.

This has led to an “abuse of dominance” complaint, arguing that Google is using its market power to bully Lottoland. Lottoland has requested an injunction that would require Google to allow advertising for six months or until the South African Competition Commission makes a decision.

Google countered that it did not single out Lottoland, pointing out that it is currently defending “millions” of pending lawsuits. However, it admitted to intentionally blocking Lottoland and its lottery wagering site for other reasons.

The company’s lawyer, Michelle le Roux, informed the tribunal that Lottoland’s landing page did not adhere to Google’s internal policies. Additionally, Google believes that the landing page may even violate South African laws.

Lottoland operates in various countries, including Ireland, Germany, and Australia. It has faced mixed reviews, with critics arguing against allowing anyone to wager on lotteries.

In Germany, attempts to block Lottoland failed. In February of this year, the country’s gaming regulator, the Joint Gaming Authority, ordered internet service providers to block access to the platform, but a court invalidated the order.

Unclear Future

Since Lottoland offers fixed-odds wagers on lotteries, including South Africa’s National Lottery, Google argues that these products violate the National Lotteries Act. However, the most recent approved update from 2015 does not contain specific language prohibiting lottery bets.

However, this does not guarantee Lottoland’s safety. In 2021, a South African court judge ordered LottoStar to stop offering wagers on National Lottery products. Nonetheless, the debate continues in courtrooms.

The National Lotteries Commission has been attempting to prevent lottery bets as well. For the past four years, it has sought greater control to force platforms like Lottoland out of the market. However, these efforts have been unsuccessful despite going to court.

The Commission now faces more significant issues as authorities are investigating over 15,000 non-profit organizations and companies for embezzling funds from the entity. Allegedly, these organizations colluded with former National Lotteries Commission executives to steal over ZAR1 billion (US$56.1 million) in lottery funds.

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