ST. LOUIS – The three largest Internet companies have agreed to pay a combined $31.5 million to settle federal civil allegations that they took ads for illegal gambling, federal officials said Wednesday. Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. also agreed to stop accepting ads for sports wagering and other online gambling, said Catherine Hanaway, the U.S. Attorney for eastern Missouri. “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. The U.S. Attorney’s Office here has led in the effort to halt illegal Web-based gambling, which is roughly a $6-billion-a-year industry, in the U.S. that violates the Federal Wire Wager Act among other federal laws. Earlier this year, the London-based Internet gambling firm BetOnSports PLC pleaded guilty in St. Louis to federal racketeering charges.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champMicrosoft’s $21 million portion of the settlement includes a $4.5 million forfeiture, $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. The public service campaign will be aimed at informing users, especially those of college age and younger, that online gambling is illegal. Yahoo’s $7.5 million share of the settlement includes a $3 million forfeiture and $4.5 million in public service ads over three years. Google is to pay $3 million, less than half its average daily profit of $11 million. “While we did not admit any wrongdoing, the Department of Justice has advised that online gambling is illegal in the United States and ads to promote it are improper,” Google spokesman Jon Murchinson said in a statement.