After years of blocking their entry, Google is set to allow real money gambling apps into Google Play opening the door to a whole new minefield.
According to an article on casino.org, Google will allow developers to list gambling apps that use real money to be listed on Google Play. The listings will be limited to the UK, France and Ireland, where these applications are legal and will begin appearing from the beginning of August. Though limited initially, Google may be looking to roll this out further according to the report.
To date, Google has denied access to any gambling apps involving real world money from being listed on Google Play, with the Google Play Developer Program Policies stating:
This is set to change, with Google reportedly emailing gambling firms and app developers including Andrew Daniels, managing director of UK based tech company Degree 53 advising them of a change to the rules. According to Mr Daniels ‘Upon submission, developers will be required to provide documentation for the apps, including licenses for the countries they’re looking to target’.
This limitation of distributing apps to the UK, Ireland and France is due to local laws allowing the distribution of these apps. Tony Mohr from the Alliance for Gambling Reform said
In Australia it is illegal to provide Australians with online cash gambling without an Australian license, which are restricted to sports gambling. A raft of safety policies are currently before the Australian Senate in the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, including putting directors of illegal gambling companies on our watchlist, so they will be arrested if they ever enter Australia.
Apple has previously allowed real money gambling apps available in their app store, though under stringent rules laid out in their App Store Review Guidelines
5.3.4 Apps that offer real money gaming (e.g. sports betting, poker, casino games, horse racing) or lotteries must have necessary licensing and permissions in the locations where the App is used, must be geo-restricted to those locations, and must be free on the App Store. Illegal gambling aids, including card counters, are not permitted on the App Store. Lottery apps must have consideration, chance, and a prize.
When approached for comment, a Google spokesperson confirmed that real money gambling apps will be rolling out to select markets, saying:
As part of our continued effort to offer new experiences on Google Play, we’re experimenting with rolling out real money gambling apps in select markets over the next few weeks that ensures user safety and complies with local laws.
Gambling apps have always been available to install on Android, but the additional step of having to side-load the app from an untrusted source has likely put many people off. Allowing gambling apps to be installed from a trusted source such as Google Play which can test for a large portion of nefarious code that could be loaded into an app available from just anywhere is preferable for user safety as pointed out by Google.
The harm from allowing unrestricted access to applications involving real money gambling could be very real in other respects though, with Mr Mohr saying
Google will cause tremendous damage to people’s lives if they allow real-cash gambling apps to go on sale on Google play. Young people are at already at huge risk, even while online gambling in Australia is restricted to sports betting. Teenagers are four times more likely to wind up hit hard by gambling than adults.
Love them or hate them, gambling apps are very controversial because of human nature. What may be a lark for some can present real problems for others. At this stage it doesn’t seem that Google will be launching real money gambling apps into Google Play, but with an active, and cashed up gambling lobby there’s nothing to say the law couldn’t change in the future. Google is simply laying the foundation for any market globally that legally allows for this.
Do you think allowing gambling apps onto Google Play is a good idea or bad idea?