Google has expanded its testing of apps that allow users to gamble — and lose — real money, but won’t allow that money to be handled using the billing systems it has fought to impose on players. developers of other applications.
The search, advertising and mobile operating system giant already has a Politics to allow gambling apps if they are approved by the government and belong to the following categories:
- online casino games;
- sports betting;
- Horse racing (where regulated and permitted separately from sports betting);
- Daily fantasy sports.
In July 2022, Google launched a pilot for digital versions of arcade claw machines – where players pay for the chance to win a prize with a frustratingly inaccurate gripping device. This pilot was offered in Japan only and will run for one year.
On Wednesday, Google announced it would allow Indian developers to offer daily fantasy sports apps and multiplayer versions of the card game Rummy.
Google surely knows – as reported by indian outlet MediaNama – that some Indian state governments have attempted to ban online rummy. Another Indian outlet, The Hinduhas reported 17 cases of suicides linked to online gambling in India.
Perhaps that’s why one of Google’s terms for the pilot is that apps “must NOT be purchased as a paid app on Google Play, or use Google Play’s in-app billing.” (Google capitalized “NOT”.)
It’s unclear whether Google has banned the use of its payment systems because it doesn’t want any involvement in gaming, or to ensure apps only use virtual currency which can’t cause real losses.
If the first scenario is Google’s motivation, denying developers access to its payment systems is a remarkable stance. Google has mostly fought to ensure that developers cannot escape its financial net. Regulators around the world have come to view Google’s requirement to use these systems as a monopoly. South Korea passed legislation to mandate more choice and earlier this week Google announced it would allow more payment options – but still take a 4% cut on Play Store transactions performed by alternative means.
The company also touted the Indian pilot as an exploration of “possible updates” to its policies. Maybe the company won’t like what it learns and pull the plug.
But for a year from September 28, Google Play India will host such apps – and Google risks being held liable if they turn out to be harmful. ®