Will Google Play store open the app floodgates?

By Caroline Watson
Google will finally allow real-money gambling applications to be marketed via its Google Play app store later this year, ending a long-standing self-imposed ban on gambling apps since 2013.

The news broke when Andrew Daniels, Managing Director of UK-based Tech Company Degree 53, whose clients include BetFred and 888 Holdings stated: “From the beginning of August 2017, Google will accept applications for the distribution of gambling apps within the Play store in the UK, France and the Republic of Ireland. At a later date, this policy change may be expanded to new regions and countries.

“Upon submission, developers will be required to provide documentation for the apps, including licences for the countries they’re looking to target. This process will likely be similar to Apple’s, taking slightly longer to approve to make sure everything is done correctly and legally.

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“This is a huge opportunity for gaming operators to grow their Android app portfolio and user base,” he added, “It’s worth keeping in mind that Android apps need to follow their own specific design and development guidelines, as well as being slightly different to iOS.”

Although Apple has enjoyed a monopoly on the market, Android’s substantial share of the mobile ecosystem will more than likely pose a substantial threat to their rival's currently thriving operations.

Google’s main issue with permitting gambling applications on their store was down to the fact that they were unable to restrict the age of those who would have access to them.

Apple however, did not see the age issue as a game-changing problem, offering a wide variety of different apps varying from casino to sports betting applications. Apple’s stance is based around their user requirements for apps, for example as long as a betting app meets the location requirements then it gets the go-ahead.

Gambling apps once fell under Google’s many restrictions, which also includes the likes of violence, bullying, sexually explicit content and illegal activities to name a few. Yet despite the restrictions, there were some ways to get gambling apps on your mobile or tablet with or without Google’s approval.

Whilst the news may be music to the ears of many Android users, Betcade and other third party websites will be singing a different tune. Launched in 2015, Betcade created the first dedicated Android app store for real money gaming apps.

The company’s aim was to target the extremely lucrative untapped market, creating “an ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders in the gaming industry”. However, it remains unclear whether the reason behind Google’s decision to roll back on its betting ban was partly because of these third party operators.

There was a suggestion as early as September 2015 that Google’s attitude was changing when, on the eve of that year’s NFL season, it quietly allowed daily fantasy sports site DraftKings’ and FanDuel’s real-money apps into the Play Store.

Although it’s too early to make any extensive predictions on how the market will change following the impending amendments, GI spoke to Nicholas Duddy, Founder at Miratrix and App Store Research Associate to gauge his reaction on the prospective changes.

"Google Play comes with opportunities and threats. The opportunities are that 64% of active mobile devices are Android, this opens the gaming industry up to an entirely new channel which has huge reach.

“The downside to this is the fact that Android users historically spend less in the app store across all verticals. In fact iOS users spend two and a half times more than Android users. This poses the difficult issue of balancing the investment in development and marketing with the LTV of a user.

“I believe Google's move into gaming is motivated entirely by money and improving the reach of their payments gateway Google Wallet. Google can earn more by pushing operators and affiliates to spend through their Universal Ad Campaigns (UAC). Moreover, they can earn by working with operators to implement their payment gateway.

“But why now? I suggest that Google wanted to make sure that they had the correct anti-spam protocols in place to avoid spamming in Play. They wouldn't have wanted the quality of the store to be affected in a way it would have been in the good old days pre-Panda and Penguin. In recent months they've rolled out updates which allow them to algorithmically detect spam, whilst filtering them so that it does not affect the rankings. This would have been a key update to ensure a higher quality result listing in Play for the future."

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