In a significant change to its current policy of not allowing real-money gaming apps in India on the Google Playstore, the US-based tech behemoth has announced that real-money games such as Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and Rummy apps will be offered on its app marketplace on a pilot basis from September 28, 2022, to September 28, 2023.
The new policy by Google is set to provide a big boost for Indian real-money gaming apps that currently account for most of the industry's revenue in the country.
"Starting September 28, 2022, Play will begin a limited-time pilot allowing for the distribution of DFS and Rummy apps to users in India by developers incorporated in India (the "Pilot Program")." Google said in a notification published on its website.
"Applicants that successfully complete the application process and are accepted to participate in the Pilot Program will be eligible to distribute their apps on Google Play for the duration of the Pilot Program to users in India." the notification further added.
Outlining the terms and conditions, Google clarified that the real money rummy and fantasy sports app will be rated 18+ only and will be available as a free-to-download app and will not be eligible to use Google in-app billing.
The onus will be on the app developer responsible for collecting the PAN card and bank account details of the user downloading the app.
Upon submitting the application form, Google will inform the developer of its decision on whether to allow the real money gaming app on its platform within seven business days.
Besides the changes in its policy on real money games in India, Google has also allowed real money online crane games in Japan, effective September 28, 2022, on a pilot basis for one year.
In January 2021, Google made certain changes in its policy on real money games and allowed licensed gambling and sports betting apps from certain states in the USA and some European countries. Still, Indian real money skill-based apps were not included in the revised policy back then.
Google has been in the eye of a storm in India over its arbitrary and anti-competitive policies for listing apps on the Playstore, with anti-trust regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) reportedly looking to pass a decision on the tech giant's billing policy and commission structure for Playstore soon. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance is also looking at alleged anti-competitive practices by social media and tech companies and has recently summoned executives of Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech companies.
In September 2020, Google briefly removed fintech giant Paytm's mobile application from the Playstore platform over its alleged violation of anti-gambling policies but restored the app in a few hours.
Earlier this year, real money gaming platform Winzo filed a lawsuit against Google in the Delhi High Court for its arbitrary and discriminatory policy of showing a warning on Android devices when users download its app. In its response to the suit, Google claimed that the policy is not discriminatory but in compliance with Information Technology Rules on security measures and that a similar warning is shown on various other apps.
The tech giant also referred to its policy of not allowing speculative or real money gaming apps on its platform and noted that speculative real money games such as the ones offered by Winzo are illegal in several states in India. The lawsuit is scheduled for hearing on September 23, 2022. Google's stand on Winzo's suit in light of its changed policy is not yet known.
Google's changed policy on real money fantasy sports and rummy apps will be a massive boost for the online gaming industry in India and could lead to further policy changes regarding other skill-based apps also being allowed on the Playstore platform in the near future.
The online gaming sector is dominated by players like Dream11, Mobile Premier League, and Games 24x7 - which were side loaded until now, as they were not allowed on the Play Store.
(With inputs from TeamG2G)
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