Gambling industry marketers are always on the lookout for new tactics that will help them and the companies they promote gain a foothold in Google’s search results. However, while there are many approaches which are above board, some marketers will look for underhand ways to ‘game’ the system. One of these methods that is becoming increasingly popular is to target Google Maps in order to hijack traffic and direct consumers towards unlicensed online casinos.
Back in 2021, Google announced that its efforts to fight the spamming of both Google Maps and Google Business profiles had resulted in over 100 million Business Profile edits. According to Google, this protected over 100,000 legitimate businesses from attempted abuse or hijacking of their profiles.
However, Google has failed to prevent spammers from using a combination of fake reviews and fake business listings to hijack traffic searching for legitimate destinations and instead direct it to their illegal online casinos.
Illegal Online Casinos Rank at the Top on Google Maps
Searches on Google Maps for legitimate land-based casinos often display fake listings and links to illegal online casinos
Research carried out by American casino guide website USA-Casino.com has uncovered deceptive methods used by online casino affiliate marketers to ‘game’ the system – ranking in the top positions for casino-related queries on Google Maps in the U.S.
This often occurs in states where online casino gaming is either illegal or not currently legislated for.
For example, a search for ‘Nevada Casinos’ would ordinarily return search results that list bricks and mortar casinos especially given that Google itself has previously stated that it would focus on presenting only trustworthy sites for health or finance related queries.
However while there are certainly land-based casinos listed, one of the top results is also for ‘Nevada Online Casino’ which uses affiliate links to direct consumers to an online casino website.
The spammers have also used a legitimate slot machine parlor’s addresses as physical addresses for the business listings in some cases.
The same can be found in a search for ‘casinos in Alaska’ where the top search result is an online casino that is not located in Alaska. In fact, online gambling is unregulated in Alaska and gambling on out-of-state casinos or websites is actually illegal.
The listing is indeed fake and hijacks legitimate traffic directing it to an online casino and sportsbook that is unlicensed. Users in Alaska who may then use this site would, perhaps unknowingly, break the law and the Google Maps listing facilitates this.
The spammers who create these listings will also create fake reviews that are designed to boost the online casino’s credibility and improve the chances of successfully directing traffic to the unlicensed site.
The same practice can be found in states across the USA particularly in states where online casino gaming is not currently legislated for. At present, online casino gaming is only legal in six states — Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Google has previously stated that less than 1% of all content viewed on Google Maps is fraudulent or abusive. Clearly, this may not be the case with regards to online casino queries.