Posted: September 9, 2022, 8:33 AM.
Last updated: September 9, 2022, 8:33 AM.
India may still be trying to define what gambling is, but Google hopes to create the definition. It is set to launch a pilot program this month that will allow certain gambling apps on Google Play in the country.
A consumer has a Google Play gift card. The Android game and app platform is going to test limited gambling apps in India. (Image: Getty Images)
Google is going to open its online app store to local developers who create daily fantasy sports (DFS) and rummy apps, the Alphabet company said yesterday. This is a huge switch from the platform’s predominantly anti-gambling stance, although real money gambling remains a sensitive topic.
Developers can now apply to participate in the pilot program, which could start on September 28. It will run for a year, after which, if authorities in India do not intervene, it could become a permanent addition to Google Play.
Google is going to change gambling in India
India has struggled to come to a consensus on what gambling is. For example, politicians in some states have argued that poker is just a game of chance, but that rummy is a game of skill. The latter is hugely popular across the country, research shows that over 76% of the population plays the game.
The same goes for DFS. India’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the activity is not gambling, but rather a game of skill. However, some states still prohibit real-money DFS operations.
DFS advocates in Karnataka took a win in February by overturning a ban. However, Assam, Telangana and others are still banned.
Because of this, the legalization of poker still struggles to find support. The same goes for legal DFS. However, rummy is easily embraced everywhere.
Google has long had a policy banning real money gambling apps in Google Play, but the pilot program seems to indicate a change. However, developers participating in the program will not be able to use Google’s proprietary billing system. Instead, they will have to find third-party solutions.
In addition, they must ensure that their apps comply with local regulations. For example, they must not violate local state laws, must be properly licensed, and ensure that no one under the age of 18 can access the apps.
Respond to the question
The initiative, according to Google, is in response to user requests to include DFS and rummy. It could also be because of the potential money the company could make if it changes its policies.
Three Indian companies, Dream11, Mobile Premier League and Games 24×7, offer DFS for Android and are worth more than $1 billion each. Users will need to side-load the apps, but will soon be able to find them in Google Play if accepted to the program.
The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) reports that the fantasy sports market in India was worth $4.35 billion last year. By 2025, it predicts it will be worth more than $20 billion.
While some are welcomed, not everyone is happy with Google’s decision. Allegations of Google’s “discrimination” and “position abuse” are beginning to surface.
The CEO of the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), Roland Landers, said it was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough. He claimed that there are plenty of other games that Google should include. Landers added that the move will force smaller companies out of the business, as they will not be able to compete with organizations with deep pockets.
The failure of this decision, which will allow Google to sue, needs to be rethought. This certainly creates an unnecessary distinction between the different types of games offered under the [real-money games] category in the rapidly emerging game industry,” said attorney Abhishek Malhotra.
FIFS applauds the move, as does PayTM First Games. Several Indian states banned PayTM last year, so the decision is a minor justification for the company.
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