Android’s Google Play Store Rolls the Dice On Gambling Apps

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Android’s Play Store is welcoming real money gambling apps into the fold. As an experiment, Google have decided to soften their stance in just the UK, Ireland, and France initially. While free casino apps, even branded ones, have always been available, Google has previously refused to allow real money apps, with one notable exception: Google used to allow just a couple of gambling apps relating to the 2015 NFL season.

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What Does this Mean for Users?

The changes will make real-money gambling apps easier to acquire, especially for users that rarely stray from the familiarity of the Play Store. At the same time as loosening their restrictions on gambling apps, Google are also updating their advertising policy. Gambling-related adverts will now be permitted in other Play Store apps, although they do specify the ads must not be viewed by underage users, which will restrict them to being displayed on apps with age restrictions in place.

What Does This Mean for App Developers?

Hardcore gamers could already download and use gambling apps on Android, just not from the Google Play Store. They would have to use a third party resource or download apps directly from company websites and third-party marketplaces, where various gambling brands fight for the customer’s attention by offering a range of special offers and free spins.

According to a report by the IDC (International Data Corporation) on the first quarter of 2017 Android accounts for 85% of the global smartphone market and the Google Play Store is by far the most popular way to discover and download new apps. However, according to Statista, one of the initial markets where gambling apps are being launched is well below the average, only accounting for 50% of the UK’s market. This means the new rules will increase the visibility of gambling apps significantly. For the online gambling operators this extra acquisition channel will give them a far more direct route to their potential users.

It will be up to the online gambling operator to ensure there are systems in place to prevent underage use of their app, which must be rated as AO (Adult Only). They will also be required to promote responsible gambling practices within their app. Google is adding even more caution to their approach by not allowing the use of Google payment services for gambling apps. This means all transactions will be directly between the operator and end user. The app must also be free to download from the Play Store.

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What Does This Mean for Gamblers?

While technically these brands already had access to the same customers, with a much more direct route to their target market, gambling companies will all be clamouring for audiences’ attention. You can expect to see ever more generous offers in order to entice players to download and use a particular app. This will generate a race towards better offers for us users, including free spins no deposit, matched deposits and VIP rewards. Increased competition very rarely works against the consumer.

The potential increases in revenue could also lead to app developers looking for other ways to add value to their user experience. While many current apps provide a digital casino experience, we would expect to see more creative use of the Android platform over the coming year. Hopefully, this will lead to slicker design, quicker apps, and a more user-centric experience.

Another way online casinos have added value in the past is by rewarding loyalty. We wouldn’t be surprised to see this becoming more common in the mobile gambling market too. Whether it’s rewards for hitting spend or deposit targets, or a VIP style club with additional discounts and offers for the most regular users and the biggest spenders, expect follow-up offers after the initial sign-up bonuses. 

Will it Be Rolled Out Globally?

Google may have selected the UK as its initial launch location because of their smaller market share in the region. The UK also provides a market already well accustomed to gambling. It will provide Google with an ideal test region to gauge the response to the changes, and to minimise any early problems between Google and the service providers.

If the introduction goes relatively smoothly then we would fully expect to see the changes expanded to include other regions over the coming months and years. Google’s ultimate goal is to increase the market share of Android, and any sizeable upwards trend will undoubtedly greatly increase the chances of us seeing real money gambling apps in the Play Store in every country that allows gambling. Will Google consider the experiment a success if it all goes smoothly but the market share doesn’t increase? Only time will tell. 

Will The Google Play Store Be Flooded With Gambling Apps?

The process of being able to offer an online gambling app in the Play store is complicated. All online gambling operators will be required to provide all the required regulatory documentation, including their licenses for all the countries they wish to operate in.

We don’t expect Google to rush approving the apps either. This is a new area for them and, despite the fact Google has ensured all the responsibility lies with the operator, they will want to ensure everything is completed legally. This means we can expect to see online gambling apps from all the big players in the market that were already offering an app through other sources, but we don’t expect to see a swathe of new apps popping up. 

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