If lawmakers and regulators were already up in arms about loot boxes, especially in mobile games, they might have a storm coming once real gambling and betting apps start arriving on Google Play Store. Such apps that involve the risk of losing large sums of money have always been a thorny subject, which is why they were limited to an extremely low number of markets. Starting March, however, that will no longer the case as Google Play adds 15 more countries to that list.
To be clear, Google Play will not simply allow any and all gambling and betting apps to litter Android’s app marketplace, which is already a bit of a mess considering the loose requirements for submitting apps. Given the legal liabilities it might incur, Google is actually imposing stricter requirements for those who want to have their apps officially on Google Play Store.
First, of course, is the country requirement, which was previously limited only to Brazil, France, Ireland, and the UK. There are now 19 in total with the addition of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and, of course, the US.
Even if the developer of the app is located in those territories, Google won’t grant them a blanket approval. Developers will have to provide documentation proving their legal operations, which may vary from country to country or, in the case of the US, from state to state. Even when approved, those apps won’t just show up on Google Play Store for everyone but only in the same country of origin. They will also be labeled “Adult Only” to prevent under-age users from accessing them.
The stringent requirements are, of course, necessary considering the sensitive nature of gambling apps. Unfortunately, Android’s open platform does allow sideloading such apps outside of the Google Play Store, often with unforeseen consequences when it comes to security and privacy.