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Google Antitrust Trial Begins With Implications For Online Gambling

Written By Derek Helling on September 12, 2023
google logo on sign aside trees with fall leaves

The Carnegie Steel or Ma Bell trial of the 21st century may have begun on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. While it might be years before the antitrust proceedings against Google bear any results that materially impact how people use its services, the pivotal role that Google plays in the economy of the United States makes the stakes as high as any casino VIP poker game.

The future of real-money online casinos in the US is not exempt from the potential ramifications of this action. The courts could have a lot to say about how online gambling companies conduct their business moving forward. In addition, how players find information pertaining to online casinos could change.

United States v. Google is underway

Three years after the US Department of Justice filed charges against Google for alleged violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, the trial is ongoing. At the heart of the DOJ’s allegations is that Google has illegally monopolized digital advertising technology.

While electronic devices are impermissible inside the courtroom, select members of the media are reporting on the proceedings live via a landline teleconference. For example, The Verge’s David Pierce offers a live blog of the proceedings.

It’s unlikely that a decision on the government’s allegations will come this year. While Judge Amit Mehta will likely render a verdict in early 2024, his decision probably won’t be the final word on the matter. Either Google or the DOJ will likely appeal and it’s possible that eventually, the US Supreme Court might receive a writ of certiorari (petition for review) in the matter.

Furthermore, if the DOJ ultimately prevails, there will be a following trial to decide how to apply penalties to Google. For those reasons, it could be late in the current decade before Google actually has to alter its business practices in a significant way, if at all.

Regardless, the potential ramifications ahead for many facets of US e-commerce are significant. The impact could be seismic depending on how the government elects to proceed if successful in its prosecution.

Potential changes are broad at this stage

Among the centerpieces of the allegations against Google are that the company illegally protects its monopoly power by colluding with other businesses like Apple to make Google the default search engine on Apple’s devices and software.

A separate but similar action from the DOJ focuses on Google’s ad manager suite. The government aims to convince Mehta that if not for these potentially illegal contracts with partners, Google’s dominance of search-based advertising would be nowhere near what it is today.

There are many possibilities for how the government could move if its prosecution is successful. However, its arguments point to the most-likely outcomes. The government could force Google to cancel those contracts. While there remains a chance that the government could also force Google to sell off parts of its business like the ad manager, that could be in addition to the cancelation of default search engine contracts.

Without such control of search results, doing business with Google might not be as crucial for businesses. Even that result has its limitations, though.

Could rivals actually challenge Google for market share?

Even with a potential loss of its ad tech and cancelation of default contracts, Google could still be a dominant player in the digital advertising business. Theoretically, though, the government’s actions could open the door wider for others to build a truly competitive product.

For example, Apple might invest in building out its own search engine with Google no longer filling that need. Microsoft might put more resources into its Bing search engine as well. Creating a legitimate competitor for Google from scratch could prove costly and difficult, though.

Even after suffering potential consequences, Google might still benefit from the strength of consumer habit. After decades, “googling” might be so entrenched in the cultural lexicon that a wider berth for competitors won’t be enough to level the playing field.

Thus, if the government really wants to create a truly open market, it might need to take a hatchet to Google the way it did to AT&T in the 1980s. That might be unlikely but it would have sweeping ramifications for many businesses, online gambling companies included.

Reaching gamblers in the US could change

Currently, online gambling companies make use of Google ads to reach people looking for ways to play online. That might not change much if Google exonerates itself or the government affects only narrow changes to Google after successful prosecution.

Should the government take more extreme measures, however, online gambling companies might diversify their marketing strategies. More resources could be put toward social content. For consumers, that could accelerate existing trends favoring short-form video content as search results.

Additionally, consumers might need to adjust in terms of how they find information about online gambling. If Google is no longer the default on their browsers and devices, they might struggle to find a reliable alternative, at least in the short-term.

In such circumstances, online gambling companies would need to devote more attention into identifying the best use of their resources. Battling misinformation on emerging sources could be a concern as well.

The court proceedings currently ongoing will determine which future lies ahead for Google, online gambling companies, and players. That future could look very different from the present in terms of how online gambling companies and players find each other.

Photo by AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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