The deal, announced Wednesday, calls for Microsoft to pay a $4.5 million fine and also donate $7.5 million to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The company further agreed to provide $9 million in anti-gambling public service ads. Yahoo and Google will forfeit $3 million each, while Yahoo also will provide an additional $4.5 million in public service ads.
The agreements resolve allegations that the three companies accepted online ads promoting gambling starting in 1997. None of the companies admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlements.
Microsoft in a statement said it stopped accepting ads from sites associated with online gambling nearly four years ago. "We're pleased to have reached a mutually beneficial outcome with the U.S. attorney's office in St. Louis that will provide substantial resources to protect consumers from harmful Internet content," the company added.
A Yahoo spokesperson also said the company stopped taking online gambling ads years ago. Google likewise said the company had stopped running such ads, which it described as "a very small part" of its pay-per-click AdWords business, in April 2004.
The federal authorities contended that accepting ads promoting gambling violated the Federal Wire Wager Act and other laws. U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway in St. Louis said in a statement that her office had previously collected $40 million in fines stemming from illegal gambling.
The public service ad campaigns are slated to begin early next year.