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Should Google change the Play Store gambling app rules?

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Having played and worked in Android since, well, basically the very beginning… I’ve seen a lot of change on the platform. I’ve talked to lots of users, had friends and family using Google’s mobile OS and talked a lot about how to stay secure, how to ensure that your device doesn’t get compromised and how to prevent apps full of malware getting on to your device. The first bit of advice I always give? If an application tells you to check ‘allow unknown sources’ in your security settings, be very, VERY careful. We are in the slightly weird situation where alternative stores such as the Amazon Appstore (which is well worth installing for most users) makes you set this option, but there is something else Google is doing to exacerbate the problem for many users, and that is their insistence on forbidding the listing of ‘real money’ gambling apps in the Play Store.

It’s worth thinking about exactly what real money gambling apps are. Of course, the most obvious example is the typical bookmaker app – the stores you might see on any high street in the country. But the ban isn’t only limited to these… it also covers lottery apps (even the National Lottery, and many others that contribute to good causes) and bingo apps from the likes of winkbingo amongst many others. An interesting point to note is that Apple DO allow these kinds of apps in the App Store, subject of course to local laws, and provided they don’t collect funds via Apple themselves (itself slightly odd, as any other app HAS to use Apple for funding, so that they get their cut).

So why this policy from Google? It forms part of the Developer Policy, published on the Android Developer website, which covers ‘restricted content’. Unfortunately, it is lumped in with other examples such as sexually explicit content, child endangerment, violence, hate speech etc. etc. It just doesn’t seem right. I maintain that Google is doing more harm than good by forcing people off-platform in order to find gambling content. If they don’t want to make money from it, that’s fine, but they are endangering their users.

I’m really interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. Is Google doing the right thing by taking the moral high ground? Should we be able to choose to have a little bit of bingo fun on our devices (as one of my close friends does) without being nannied by the platform provider?

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