Google Play Store has recently announced new policies for certain apps. These apps have been split up into four categories by the Play Store.
Online Casino Games
Daily Fantasy Sports
So far Google Play Store has different policies in different countries based on the legal status granted to online Real Money based games and business models in those respective countries. In countries where gambling is regulated and has a stable legal standing, the apps that are based on these games are available to download on the Play Store.
Currently Real Money Game (RMG) apps are available in the UK, Ireland, France and apps that are approved by Caixa Econômica Federal for Brazil. These apps include sports betting, online casinos, sports betting, lotteries and games of skill that offer cash prizes but can also include other game formats as well. There are some exceptions which come under Gamified Loyalty Programs but overall, the Play Store is pretty strict about their policy on Real Money Games.
Even in these handful of countries, the Play Store has an extensive list of requirements plus a grueling application process. One of the bigger challenges or possibly a boon is that as per these requirements, the app needs to be free to download and Google Play In-app billing system is not available to them. The app also has to actively create an environment discouraging or keeping out underage players, plenty of warnings on the addictive nature of gambling. Also developers need to ensure content is as per International Age Rating Coalition (IARC).
Daily Fantasy Sports Apps or DFS however still have some leeway since they are allowed on the Play Store in certain US states and all other countries which legally allow DFS players to operate. However even this category has a tough application process and cannot be available as a paid app or use In-app Billing provided by Google.
Play Store policies in India
For the India market, the Play Store with a fragmented legal map in India, has chosen to not allow a RMG apps on the platform or for that matter any apps that provide prizes or benefits in the form of real money.
Gambling is a state subject in India and hence every state in India is allowed to and responsible for creating their own regulation that suits their population. Online gaming in India is mostly covered under The Public Gambling Act of 1867 which is used as a baseline by most states in India. Indian states however have taken various approaches to gambling with some states like Sikkim, Nagaland creating a licensing system and regulating the space while states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana completely banning gambling in any shape or form in their state and among their citizens.
Play Store vs PayTM First Games
A major blip in the India Real Money Games story for Play Store was PayTM First Games.
Mid Sept 2020, mobile wallet PayTM and PayTM's gaming app PayTM First Games was taken down from the Play Store with the following statement "Our policies don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting, including daily fantasy sports in India." Google hasn't been clear on the exact details of why the apps were taken down but PayTM First Games bio itself has Fantasy Cricket highlighted repeatedly with the app description including "Make your dream team, play fantasy cricket and win Paytm cash for free".
The apps were made available back into the Play Store after relevant changes in the PayTM First Games offerings, 3 weeks later. However the whole episode created a localisation drive with PayTM launching their own app store rivaling the Play Store.
These particular verticals, especially Real Money Games and especially Fantasy Sports despite no real world events have seen explosive growth in the market during the pandemic. Thus many countries after seeing severe funding gaps to battle Corona are looking for new tax revenue sources. Thus many countries have seen legal movement. Google Play Store is no different. They have been forced to see Real Money Games and DFS in a different light. Especially after how these particular verticals produced multiple unicorns and a few billions worth of business being conducted in the pandemic just across South Asia with the Play Store missing out completely.
Revised Play Store Policy
Google has taken notice and the Play Store has released details on their new Developer Program Policy for Real Money Games, Gambling and Contests which will be effective by 1st March 2021. We have the following countries apart from the UK, Ireland, France, Brazil and parts of the US included in the list of countries where Real Money Games and other online Rmg app operators are allowed to apply to Google’s application process. It is limited to Daily Fantasy Sports, the fastest growing segment in Real Money Games, Online Casino Games and Lotteries.
World Map according to Google’s Play Store Policies on Real Money Games app availability
Each country is limited by the legal bandwidth their Govt allows but Play Store despite its application process and non-availability of its in-app billing system has made user acquisition, one of the bigger problems for Real Money Game and Online rmg app operators, quite easy.Various countries have their own set ups with Australia only allowing DFS with Japan saying no to Casino games, horse, bicycle, motorboat race betting and lotteries too. The USA has a very complicated regulation mechanism with some states open to every form of skill based gambling games while others want nothing to do with it. Europe seems to be the most open continent for online RMG apps.
Most of the world however does not have Real Money Game apps available to download on the Play Store and the Play Store is not entirely at fault here either. Real Money Games are illegal in Islamic countries in the middle east, north africa, Bangladesh and Indonesia. China is not fond of these games either while India has still much to catch up in legal terms whereas Vietnam has no policy at all.
The pandemic definitely has shown the potential for tax revenue, foreign investment and job creation across the world. And with most Govt’s reeling from the economic slowdown, Real Money Games is a promising industry as a driver of growth. Some countries have started work on legalising or regulating this industry and the faster that happens, the bigger the market size for these gaming apps.