Google to Roll Out Gambling Apps on Google Play India

Posted on: September 9, 2022, 08:33h. 

Last updated on: September 9, 2022, 12:03h.

India may still be trying to determine what constitutes gambling, but Google hopes to create the definition. It’s starting a pilot program this month that will allow certain gambling apps on Google Play in the country.

Google Play
A consumer holds a Google Play gift card. The Android games and app platform will pilot limited gambling apps in India. (Image: Getty Images)

Google is opening its online app store to local developers who create daily fantasy sports (DFS) and rummy apps, the Alphabet-owned company, said Thursday. This is a massive switch from the platform’s mostly anti-gambling stance, although real-money gambling remains a sensitive topic.

Developers can now submit their requests to participate in the pilot program, which could start on Sept. 28. It will run for a year, after which, if authorities in India don’t intervene, it could become a permanent addition to Google Play.

Google has long held a policy prohibiting real-money gambling apps in Google Play. But the pilot program seems to indicate a change. However, developers who participate in the program will not be able to use Google’s own billing system. Instead, they will need to find third-party solutions.

In addition, they will have to make sure their apps conform to local regulations. For example, they cannot violate local state laws, must have proper licenses, and must ensure no one under 18 can access the apps.

Responding to Demand

The initiative, according to Google, is in response to requests from users for the inclusion of DFS and rummy. It could also be because of the potential money the company could make as it changes its policies.

Three Indian companies, Dream11, Mobile Premier League, and Games 24×7, offer Android DFS, each worth more than $1 billion. Users have to side-load the apps but might soon find them in Google Play if accepted to the program.

The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) indicates that the country’s fantasy sports market was worth $4.35 billion last year. By 2025, it predicts it will be worth over $20 billion.

Indian’s Hazy Gambling Laws

In India, The Gambling Act bans chance or luck-based games but does not ban skill-based games. But the country has had difficulty coming up with a consensus on this definition.

The legalization of poker still has difficulty finding support. The same holds true for legal Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Rummy, however, is readily embraced everywhere and remains extremely popular across the country, with over 76% of the population playing the game, according to some estimates.

DFS proponents in Karnataka won a victory in overturning a ban in February. However, Assam, Telangana, and other regions still have bans.

Divisive Decision

Although welcomed by some, not everyone is happy with Google’s decision. Accusations of Google’s “discrimination” and “abuse of position” are starting to emerge.

The CEO of the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), Roland Landers, said the move is a step in the right direction but doesn’t go far enough. He asserts that there are plenty of other games that Google should include. Landers added that the move will force smaller companies out of the business since they won’t be able to compete with deep-pocketed organizations.

There needs to be a rethink on this decision failing, with which Google may invite litigation. This certainly creates an unnecessary distinction between the different kinds of games offered under the [real-money games] category in the fast-emerging gaming industry,” said attorney Abhishek Malhotra.

FIFS welcomes the move, as does PayTM First Games. Several Indian states banned PayTM last year, so the decision is a small vindication for the company.