Google Play Store to Allow Licensed Gambling Apps Providing Android a Competitive Advantage

Gambling App on Android

Google announced Friday that beginning on March 1st, 2021, the company would allow gambling apps on its Google Play store. Apps will be limited to companies with valid gambling licenses for the geographic areas they want to offer the app, and the move is part shocking (to me) and part recognizing reality. It will have a material impact on the gambling industry, and it will be a differentiating factor from Apple’s iOS and iPadOS platforms.

The company included the change in an update posted to its Google Play Policy Center:

Subject to restrictions and compliance with all Google Play policies, we allow apps that enable or facilitate online gambling in the following countries in the table below as long as the Developer completes the application process for gambling apps being distributed on Play, is an approved governmental operator and/or is registered as a licensed operator with the appropriate governmental gambling authority in the specified country, and provides a valid operating license in the specified country for the type of online gambling product they want to offer.

We only allow valid licensed or authorized gambling apps that have the following types of online gambling products (please consult the table below for the specific types of gambling products allowed in each country):

  • Online casino games
  • Lotteries
  • Sports betting
  • Daily Fantasy Sports

The policy change further specifies that the change will apply to Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States. In the U.S., there are significant other restrictions on a state-by-state basis.

Mo Money? Not So Much

Another significant bit is that Google will not allow funding through Google Play’s in-app purchasing infrastructure—plus, these apps must not be for-fee apps. All of which means that Google isn’t going to be profiting directly from the addition of gambling apps, except for revenues derived from advertising these apps in Google Play.

Which kind of begs the question of why. Why would Google open itself up to dealing gambling licensing, which is a hot mess in the U.S. and varies from state-to-state? On the other hand, if gambling is legal, why would Google (or Apple!) forbid apps in the first place. The same would be true of porn, though this also applies more to Apple than Google.

The Gambling Industry and Mobile Apps

It also has the opportunity to really shake up the gambling industry, especially in the U.S. By explicitly allowing gambling apps—even if only from licensed gambling operators—Google just radically lowered the barrier-to-entry for legal gambling operators. While I imagine that existing gambling operators in the U.S. (I know little about gambling outside the U.S.) will fight tooth and nail to keep state licensing in existing operators’ hands, people and company outside of those existing operators now have a much cheaper path to opening a legal casino than having to build a brick and mortar palace—if they can get a license.

Will Apple follow suit? That doesn’t seem likely. For one thing, Apple works hard to ensure that ALL transactions on its App Store go through Apple’s in-app purchasing infrastructure. To be sure, the company could make an exception similar to Google’s prohibition on in-app purchases for gambling apps, but I can’t see Apple wanting its App Store image to be associated with gambling.

And that leads to the question of whether Google just found a competitive advantage over Apple in the mobile space. I don’t know exactly how big the gambling market is, but at this point Google will have a monopoly on sanctioned gambling apps.

5 thoughts on “Google Play Store to Allow Licensed Gambling Apps Providing Android a Competitive Advantage

  • I’m not sure its a marketing advantage unless you are peddling the 21st century version of snake oil. And its a GREAT reason to avoid Android, along with the thousands of others.

    Gambling is for mugs. Its not entertainment, the only predictable thing is YOU WILL LOSE.

    Don’t be a mug, keep your dollars / pounds or whatever in your pocket.

  • Bryan:

    Thank you for a thoughtful analysis. 

    Let’s take a step back and dare to embrace the obvious, and state some ugly but relevant truths. Different entities, be they professions, people, demographics, nation-states, corporations or other entities are held to different standards. As one of my medical school professors, the head of Pediatrics, a mentor, and one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, when I would confront him with an obvious double standard in the field of medicine, he would summarily explain as ‘human perversity’. 

    More to the point, entities that not simply profess, but by their actions demonstrate, a commitment to a higher standard, a loftier goal, or to human betterment, AND a responsiveness to criticism and evidence that they have fallen short with demonstrable attempts at redress and corrective measures, in other words, accountability; such entities attract the greatest scrutiny, receive the least latitude for lapses in those standards or tolerance for such failures, because they are expected to be the standard bearers, and to model best practices that others will, in due course, imitate even if not sincerely embrace. 

    Not sure about that? Then let’s get concrete. Foxconn. Despite the fact that some 21 major companies contract their services, Apple was singled out for the topic of workers pay and workers rights, not Amazon despite their equivalent market cap and impact, not Dell, not Microsoft, not Cisco, not Intel – despite their manufacturing the chipsets that Apple and other computer companies use, not Hewlett-Packard, to name just a few of the American companies; nor any of the Japanese and Chinese concerns, notably Lenovo. Apple responded, as activists knew they would, by an investigation and appropriate modifications to working conditions and salary adjustments. The number of stories regarding other companies following suit were few and far between. 

    Still not convinced? A one off, perhaps? How about toxic components in manufacturing? Greenpeace, and other environmental activists, were excoriating in their criticisms of Apple’s products on environmental damage, not to mention potential exploitation of day labourers in LMICs – this at a time, mind you, when most computer OEMs were full-on plastics and cheapest, toxic components. Apple responded, and not only removed six of the worst toxins from its products by 2016, but achieved 100% renewable energy by 2018, and continues to work on a closed loop system with minimal environmental impact. The calls for similar responses from Dell, MS, HP, Samsung and Lenovo were…underwhelming. Amazon and Google have made strides, but have garnered far less publicised interest. 

    The point being, it is one thing to tackle an industry (eg factory labour) or a subject (eg workers’ rights) that is essential and a core element of societal cohesion and progress, and improve it by doing the heavy lifting of reform. We, as a community of customers and users, need that industry, but it needs to reflect our higher principles and values, if we as a people are to feel good about benefiting from it, and feeling that we are being responsible by ensuring it will not leave our children worse off, but better. It is quite another to take on a subject or industry that is foundationally and historically associated with corruption, criminality, exploitation, and the worst forms of human abuse, including murder. Worst still, to do so for an industry that, patronage aside, is nonessential however long-lived. However satisfying, no one needs to gamble in order to survive. No one needs to patron porn or prostitution (which remain linked, however much we may look away and ignore it), both of which are rooted in human trafficking and all that that implies. (Not that porn is today’s topic, but Apple have been criticised regarding their stance on porn). 

    Can you imagine how longstanding Apple customers, never mind their committed critics, would react to the adoption of either of these in their service offerings? Can one not imagine the deep-dive investigations, many ending up on special news broadcasts, into the seedy criminal underpinnings of gambling were Apple to be involved? The appeal of exposing the horrors of human and sex trafficking that sustains the porn and prostitution industries, no less than their symbiosis, would be irresistible were Apple to allow porn apps on their platform. And what would be the end goal of such engagement by Apple? Facilitating a wider distribution of economic ruin? Losing money to friendlier people who will not come to your home and break your legs in front of your family? More humane human trafficking? It doesn’t matter how long you polish a turd; it’s still a turd. So why put it on your plate?

    We need to feel good about our purchases and our practices. We want to feel as if these things not only benefit ourselves, but other communities involved in their production, and that they are adequately compensated for their effort; that their communities also benefit, if not thrive, as a result, hence the current concern about Apple benefitting from slave Uyghur labour. Entities that do this are, rightly, held in higher esteem than those that do not. 

    It has been said many times that Apple is an aspirational company, as is the desire by consumers to purchase their products. If I were on Apple’s advisory board, and I’m not, I would advise them to protect their brand, which as Charlotte Henry recently posted, has reclaimed the pole position as the most valued on the planet.

    Whether or not Google or any other concern do this, the likelihood that Apple will increase either market share or earnings and profits, or enhance their brand, by commingling a product/service lineup that aspires to appeal to us at our best with what appeals to us at our weakest and worst is extremely low, if precedent is a guide, and unlikely to result in any net good for Apple or their aspirational client base. 

  • Excuse me I need to get another blackboard so I can add this to my list of reasons I don’t use Android.

    All kidding aside though, the headline made me think that the apps had to give PLAYERS ON ANDROID an advantage over players on iOS and other platforms. Like they would win more often. LOL Never Mind

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