The three largest Internet companies have agreed to pay a combined $31.5 million to settle federal civil allegations they took ads for illegal gambling, the U.S. Attorney for eastern Missouri said Wednesday.
Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500), Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) and Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) also agreed to stop accepting ads for sports wagering and other online gambling, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said.
The investigation, conducted by Hanaway's office, along with the IRS and the FBI, dates to 2000, she said. Negotiations have been going on for 12 to 18 months, she said.
"This is a very profitable business that had a lot of money to spend on marketing," Hanaway said of the online gambling firms advertising on the Web.
All three companies said they stopped taking the ads years ago.
"I do think it will have a major impact, Hanaway said. Obviously these are three of the largest online organizations in the world."
Microsoft's $21 million portion of the settlement includes a $4.5 million forfeit, $7.5 million to be paid to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children and $9 million in public service ads over a three-year period starting next year.
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