Sweepstakes Today's Lawsuit Against Google Shows Effect Of 'Anticompetitive' Labeling

Sweepstakes Today Founder Craig McDaniel has battled Google for years over the inability to advertise on Google Search, YouTube, and its platforms due to the company slapping Sweepstakestoday.com either with a “Gambling” and/or a “weapons” label on numerous occasions.

This classification placed his company in a “anticompetitive” category, restricting his company and him from using Google’s platforms. 

McDaniel’s company only publishes sweepstakes that might include Las Vegas trips or weapons given as prizes. 

In October, before the most recently filed lawsuit, the battle between McDaniel and Google intensified when his company retained a law firm that requested that Google clarify its AdWords and AdSense policies.

The letter claimed “Sweepstakestoday.com is not in violation of Class 3 or Class 4 Gaming laws, nor does it qualify as gambling as there is no payment necessary for participation, and claimed McDaniel has lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue ad dollars due to your erroneous classification.”

In fact, Sweepstakes Today had monthly revenue on its Google AdSense account removed for “invalid clicks.” It also asks for compensation for the removal for the past two years.

McDaniel, in an email to Search & Performance Marketing Daily earlier this year, wrote about his work as a consultant to the Las Vegas Casino, as well as his interest in buying the four horse tracks and adding hotels and casinos. “I know about Class 3 and Class 4 gaming laws,” he wrote.

Google even pasted on “Online Gambling” category on McDaniel’s personal video that had nothing to do with gambling. 

McDaniel also uploaded several videos on YouTube on a variety of topics that the company disapproved and rejected.

The most recent lawsuit -- filed on December 15, 2020 by lawyers on behalf of Sweepstakes Today -- claims Alphabet and Google are in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which declared monopolies illegal, and the Clayton Act, which defined as illegal certain business practices that are conducive to the formation of monopolies.

The 66-page document also describes Sweepstakes Today’s business model as an “online publisher and a direct competitor of Google.”

The law firm, which reportedly took on the first lawsuit against Google with its client Inform Inc., has extensive experience with advertising technology and publishers. Google has disabled Inform’s ability to support advertisers in the Chrome browser. The suit was filed in 2019 and remains pending in an Atlanta federal court.

Since 2004, Sweepstakes Today has operated a website where it offers and sells space to digital advertisers to run ads so that visitors to its website can view the advertisers’ offers. For nearly a decade, Sweepstakes Today, a profitable company, earned approximately $150,000 annually. That changed in 2012 with the acquisition of several companies and in response to the industries' pushback.

Google has grown mostly through acquisition. The suit claims that since its founding in 1998, Google has acquired more than 227 companies, spending more than $27 billion for its top 10 acquisitions.

This consolidation put Google in an interesting position, per the document: “92% of consumers use Google’s search engine; 80% of consumers use Google for search advertising; 75% of consumers use Google’s Android OS to search the Internet and more than 66% of users worldwide view websites, online video and the associated video advertisements through Google Chrome.”

The industry has tried to “work around” Google’s dominance. Publishers developed Header Bidding, an advanced method of buying display ads, offering their inventory to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously.

Header Bidding surfaced in response to a Google feature, called “Last Look,” that changed the way in which bids were accepted. In response to Header Bidding, Google created “Open Bidding,” which it integrated into its ad tech stack, as detailed in the lawsuit.


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