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Google’s Changes Might Alter Your Online Gambling Experience

Written By Derek Helling on March 27, 2024
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In 2023, Google took a significant step in the evolution of web traffic that stands to affect how myriad businesses do their marketing online. The deprecation of third-party cookies in its proprietary Chrome browser marks that much-anticipated evolution.

The emptying of the cookie jar for more than three billion Chrome users across the globe could significantly alter the marketing strategies that US online casino operators employ and thus change the experience for players, too. However, some endemic factors might make this change a mere bump in the road for forward-looking online gaming companies.

Third-party cookies have been a currency of online marketing

If you’ve used any web browser, you’ve encountered third-party cookies. Cookies are small pieces of code that track your activity on the Internet and report back to the party that implemented them.

The third-party designation simply means these pieces of code were not generated for the website by the site’s owner. Instead, the owner acquired the code from another entity.

For years, this has been a primary “currency” with which website owners “purchased” information about their visitors. When you see an ad on one site for another site that you visited two weeks ago, third-party cookies could very well be the reason why.

While that has made life simpler for those who use the Internet to advertise their businesses, it has also sparked privacy concerns. There have been workarounds, for certain. For example, some users of Chrome do all their browsing in Incognito mode or clear their browsing history after each use.

None of those measures come close to the shift that Google is undertaking for Chrome users right now, however. The deprecation (devaluation) of third-party cookies in Chrome is on.

Google’s move and the broad response

For business owners who have been reading the tea leaves, Google’s October 2023 announcement that it would restrict third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users on Jan. 4, 2024 came as more of the other shoe-dropping than a surprise.

If any online casino operators have heavily depended on third-party cookies to drive their analytics and marketing efforts, that strategy is probably undergoing a significant transformation. Google plans to restrict third-party cookies on Chrome as a rule in the third quarter of 2024. Tina Moffett, principal analyst for Forrester, spoke to that transformation away from reliance on third-party cookies.

“More marketers are turning to first- and zero-party data to fill in the consumer signal gaps that they’re losing from the deprecation of the third-party cookie,” Moffett said. “A full 44% of the B2C (Business to Consumer) marketing executives Forrester surveyed have implemented a first-party data strategy in the past 12 months, and 36% said they implemented zero-party data experiences in the past 12 months.”

In fact, Seb Joseph of Digiday quoted several ad executives who communicated that the deprecation of third-party cookies on Google’s part was moving along too slowly and that the majority of the advertising landscape was ready for a cookie-less world before Google began the process.

There is one big reason why online casino sites might treat the deprecation of third-party cookies as a blip on the radar. Still, online casino players might notice a shift in their general web browsing when seeing advertisements for online casinos.

Online gambling companies might be unbothered

Moffett says that the deprecation of third-party cookies might not be an issue for online casino operators in terms of how they are gathering data on their own web products.

“It’s plausible that gambling companies, particularly those offering online casinos, may not be as heavily impacted by the deprecation of third-party cookies due to their possession of substantial first-party data,” Moffet stated. “Online gambling platforms typically collect a wealth of first-party data directly from users as they interact with their websites or apps … .Since this data is collected directly from users, it is not reliant on third-party cookies and remains accessible to the company for targeting and personalization purposes.

Gambling companies are often subject to stringent regulatory requirements regarding data privacy and security. As a result, they may have already implemented robust data governance practices and consent mechanisms to ensure compliance with relevant regulations.”

Moffett added that gambling companies’ trove of user data does not mean they are completely in the clear as far as whether they will be affected by the deprecation of third-party cookies. For example, they might see a downturn in traffic from other websites.

Cookie restriction could significantly change users’ experience

Many Chrome users currently encounter highly personalized ads during their browsing. That is set to change drastically, according to Moffett, who calls ad retargeting (showing ads to users based on their previous interactions with a website) an impossibility without third-party cookies.

Moffett also postulates that “consumers will likely see fewer ads personalized to their web-browsing behaviors.” As a result, people might see a greater volume of ads that are just relevant to the content on the greater site, Moffett said.

Whether those are negative or positive changes depends greatly on the frame of reference. Viewing them through the lens of the online gambler is an example of a mixed bag.

Not better or worse, just different

Moffett shared that the overall improvement in privacy in browsing could receive some consumer applause. Forrester’s research shows that 59% of survey respondents indicated that they are not comfortable with website owners sharing their online activity.

Narrowing the mass of general Internet users down to just those who gamble online in the United States, there are some positive implications. For example, the loss of ad personalization could mean that people see ads for online casinos less frequently in their general web browsing. For people who struggle with compulsive gambling, that’s a win.

At the same time, that lack of passive customization could have the opposite effect. Third-party cookies provided a way for users to denote that they were not receptive to such advertising without taking much intentional action to affirm that sentiment.

That could lead to people who deal with gambling-related behavioral pathologies suddenly encountering advertising for gambling sites in places where they previously hadn’t seen any. For the general public, who might not struggle with such issues, there are downsides and upsides, too. Ads may become more repetitive as companies adjust their models for determining performance.

Moffett said people on the Internet may be “less concerned about being tracked across different websites” but might feel a loss as ad content is less tailored to their preferences, becoming less informative to their interests.

How prepared online gambling companies and their advertising partners are for the complete deprecation of third-party cookies will determine much of to what extent users perceive a difference. Ready or not, though, it’s coming.

Photo by AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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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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