Posted on: July 20, 2023, 07:49h.
Last updated on: July 20, 2023, 11:21h.
Lottoland, which has banked its success on giving bettors the chance to wager on lottery results, is taking on Google. The company’s South African arm accuses the tech giant of preventing it from advertising because of its business model, with both sides now waiting for a court to issue its ruling.
Lottoland South Africa recently filed a claim against Google, which had allegedly stopped the operator from using its advertising services platform. Lottoland’s claim sought 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 short hours, the court adjourned and will issue its ruling either this week or next.
Discrimination and Prejudice
Lottoland, which received a license to offer fixed-odds betting in South Africa in 2019, asserts that Google singled it out in preventing it from advertising on the Alphabet-led company’s platforms. Lottoland accused Google of discrimination, emphasizing that other gambling entities can easily advertise without interference.
That led to an “abuse of dominance” complaint, an argument that Google was using its market power to bully the company. Lottoland asked for an injunction that would force Google to allow it to advertise for six months, or until such time that South Africa’s Competition Commission makes a decision.
Google countered that it hadn’t singled out the company, pointing out that it had “millions” of pending lawsuits to defend. However, it admitted that it intentionally shut off Lottoland and its lottery wagering site for other reasons.
The company’s lawyer, Michelle le Roux, told the tribunal that Lottoland’s landing page didn’t adhere to Google’s internal policies. In addition, the company believes that it might even violate South African laws.
Lottoland is active in various countries, including Ireland, Germany, Australia, and others. It has a mixed reputation with all of them, with anti-gambling pundits arguing that no one should be able to wager on lotteries.
Germany tried to block Lottoland and failed. The country’s gaming regulator, the Joint Gaming Authority, ordered ISPs to block access to the platform. But a court nullified that order this past February.
Because Lottoland offers fixed-odds wagers on lotteries, including South Africa’s National Lottery, Google argued that the products violate the National Lotteries Act. However, according to the most recent approved update from 2015, there is no language that specifically prohibits lottery bets.
That doesn’t mean that Lottoland is safe. In 2021, a South African court judge ordered LottoStar to stop offering wagers on National Lottery products. Since then, the debate has reemerged in courtrooms.
The National Lotteries Commission has been trying to prevent lottery bets on its own. For at least the past four years, it has been pushing for greater control that would allow it to force platforms like Lottoland out of the market. So far, those efforts have been unsuccessful, even though they’ve gone to court.
The Commission now has bigger issues to worry about. This past April, it was revealed that authorities are investigating more than 15K nonprofit organizations and companies for stealing from the entity. They allegedly colluded with former National Lotteries Commission executives to loot over ZAR1 billion (US$56.1 million) in lottery funds.