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Google Play will allow more types of real money gaming apps in India starting July 2024

Google Play currently only allows approved rummy and daily fantasy sports (DFS) apps on the Play Store as part of a pilot program launched in September 2022.

Google on January 11 announced that it will begin allowing more types of real-money gaming (RMG) apps on the Play Store in India starting July 2024, as long as these apps comply with local laws and Google’s policy on RMG apps.

Google Play currently only allows approved rummy and daily fantasy sports (DFS) apps on the Play Store as part of a pilot program launched in September 2022. But from July, developers in India can distribute real-money gaming apps beyond DFS and rummy.

“Based on the learnings from the pilots and positive feedback from users and developers, Google Play will begin supporting more RMG apps this year, including game types and operators not covered by an existing licensing framework,” Google stated.

Why does this matter: This is big for the real-money gaming industry as distributing apps through Play Store offers a significant advantage in reaching more users over other means of distribution such as sideloading or third-party app stores.

“We welcome this progressive decision by Google to allow all Pay to Play skill games on the Play Store. We have been advocating for the same and believe that this will give a big boost to the Indian online gaming industry, where over 70 percent of the revenue is generated by Pay to Play platforms. This decision will help with responsible innovation and provide a bouquet of choices to the Indian consumer. It will especially help MSMEs and new developers/platforms who will be able to compete with established companies, and will substantially bring down the user acquisition and other associated costs.” – Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation (AIGF)

How does this new policy work with India’s online gaming rules: The online gaming rules, which were notified as an amendment to the IT Rules in April 2023, leave the industry to self-regulate through self-regulatory bodies (SRBs) that the IT Ministry will approve. As per the rules, gaming platforms can also only host real money games verified by a self-regulatory body. This means that Google Play will only be able to host games approved by a self-regulatory body. However, since the government hasn’t yet approved any self-regulatory body, these rules are not yet fully in effect. It appears that Google will allow all real-money gaming apps until these rules go into effect.

What are the Google policies RMG apps must comply with: All real-money gaming apps must comply with Google Play’s policies for real-money gaming apps such as age-gating to prevent minors from accessing the app and geo-gating to offer the app only in locations where it is legal, the company said.

Do RMG apps have to pay Google a commission: Notably, Google might start levying commissions from RMG apps. Currently, Google does not allow real-money gaming apps to use Play Billing. This has been favourable to developers in a way because they don’t have to pay the commissions charged by Google. But Google has now clarified that it will be evolving its service fee model “to reflect the value Google Play provides and to help sustain the Android and Play ecosystems.” This most likely means that real-money gaming app developers will be expected to pay commissions to Google like other developers. “We are working closely with developers to ensure our new approach reflects the unique economics and various developer earning models of this industry. We will have more to share in the coming months on our new policy and future expansion plans,” Google said.

What about apps that are part of the existing pilot program: Developers who are already part of the pilot program for distributing DFS and Rummy apps have received an extension to remain on Google Play until June 30, 2024. The pilot originally ended on September 28, 2023, but Google gave a grace period to existing pilot apps to remain on Google Play until January 15, 2024. This grace period has now further been extended.

Update (12 January, 7:15 pm): Added comment received from Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation (AIGF)

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