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Google allows 15 more nations to offer gambling in the Play store

India gets special attention with new rules for apps that tie loyalty and prize draws to payments

Google has added 15 more countries to its list of nations in which it will allow gambling apps that allow users to play with real money.

Only the UK, France, Ireland, and Brazil were previously allowed to offer such apps. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the USA will now also offer gambling apps as of March 1st.

The new rules permit casino games, lotteries, sports betting and “Daily Fantasy Sports” games, but only after developers register with Google and prove they are licenced operators of such games in the relevant jurisdiction.

Google won’t take a cut because such apps must be free, and Google Play In-app Billing is forbidden to developers of such apps.

The company has not said why it has expanded access to gambling apps.

Another change to Google’s policy on apps that allow users to play with actual money changes the rules for a type of in-app promotion that has become popular in India.

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Google’s Indian blog points out that the nation’s app developers are pioneers of loyalty schemes that are “based on a qualified monetary transaction in the app and offer prizes of cash or other real-world value” and mentions consultation with start-ups as a reason for its revised policy.

Left unsaid was that in late 2020 Google banned popular India payments app Paytm over a virtual scratch-card promotion that offered cash rebates. That ban led to some textbook outrage as India’s tech and media communities argued that Google was discriminating against local tech companies.

The new rules state: “Loyalty program benefits, perks, or rewards must be clearly supplementary and subordinate to any qualifying monetary transaction within the app” and that “no portion of the qualifying monetary transaction may represent a fee or wager to participate in the loyalty program”.

Paytm has not commented publicly on the changes at the time of writing. ®

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