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Gambling apps are coming to Google’s Play Store in the US and 14 other countries

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They were previously only allowed in four

Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

An upcoming change to Google’s Play Store policies will allow gambling and betting Android apps that use real money in 15 more countries, including the US, according to 9to5Google. Currently, gambling apps are only allowed in four countries: Brazil, France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

The new rules will be applied starting on March 1st, and they’ll permit gambling apps in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. Of course, each country will have its own limitations on what kind of online gambling is legal, with some countries allowing online casinos, sports betting, lotteries, and daily fantasy sports, and some being more restrictive.

The restrictions are also complicated. Most countries only allow lotteries if they’re run by the government, but some, like the UK, don’t have that restriction. And as is often the case, what’s allowed in the US varies on a state-by-state basis. Anyone looking to release a gambling app will have to do their legal homework first, considering the patchwork of laws and regulations permitting specific types of online gambling in the US.

List of the allowed types of gambling products in the US, with the list of states each is allowed in
The US has the largest details box by far.

The change won’t be opening the floodgates for just anyone to release a slot machine app. Currently, Google requires developers to go through an application process to get their gambling apps on the Play Store, and the new policies won’t be removing that requirement. The application ensures that the developer uploading the app is licensed to run a gambling operation in the country where the app will be sold.

Before this change, users who wanted to use gambling apps on their Android phones would have to sideload them, a practice that Google has been discouraging more and more as time goes on. iPhone users, on the other hand, have been allowed to download them straight from the App Store.

Of course, it could be argued that many games and apps that are on the Play Store today already include gambling mechanics (any game that includes loot boxes, for example, or apps that allow people to make bets on Wall Street). The apps that will be allowed under this policy differ in that they’ll be allowing apps that are purely made for gambling, using real money. If I could make one request to Google, it’d be to let people hide gambling apps like they’re allowed to hide gambling ads.

Google was not immediately available to comment on the policy change.