Effective March 1, 2021, the Google Play store will allow real-money mobile app contests, advertising related to real-money gambling, and daily fantasy sports ("DFS") in 19 countries, including the United States. The apps will be required to meet certain requirements as set forth in the Google Play Policy Center. Currently, gambling apps are only allowed in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Brazil (exclusively those apps approved by Caixa Economica Federal). The policy change will give validly licensed or authorized online casino games, lotteries, sports betting and DFS easier access to Android users and unlock a large market of apps offered exclusively through mobile phones. Mobile app contest developers that wish to offer their games through Google Play must be certain to follow the platform's eligibility requirements, state and federal laws, and governmental agency regulations.
What are the eligibility requirements for mobile app contests?
Mobile App Contest Requirements
For mobile app contests to be eligible for distribution through the Google Play store, developers must successfully complete the application process. The application form requests general information on the operators themselves, gambling license details, and acceptance of Google Play's gambling terms and conditions. For each country and state that the mobile app contest operators want to be available in, applicants must: 1) have a valid gambling license; 2) agree to comply with all applicable laws and industry standards; and 3) prevent access to individuals located in geographic areas not covered by the operators' gambling license(s). Mobile app contests must be rated AO ("Adult Only) or the International Age Rating Coalition ("IARC") equivalent, with standards in place to prevent under-age users from accessing the apps. The apps must also be free to download and install from the Google Play store, and clearly display responsible gambling information in the application interface. Mobile app contests that feature real money prizes will not be allowed for distribution through the Google Play store unless they meet all of the foregoing requirements. Similar restrictions now apply to DFS apps in applicable US states and territories.
Developing Mobile App Contests
This recent news from Google is encouraging for developers of mobile app contests and is consistent with the recent trend of greater acceptance of gambling in the United States. However, app developers must remain mindful of applicable state and federal laws, in addition to the Google Play eligibility requirements. For example, last year, Huuuge Inc. settled a class action lawsuit for $6.5 million after it was accused of offering mobile app contests that violate Washington State gambling laws.
Before bringing mobile app contests to market, developers should consult knowledgeable legal counsel to advise them on each mobile app store's gaming policies, as well as applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations.
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