The latest update of the App Store Review Guidelines is here and it can be said with a fair degree of certainty that it would spell quite some trouble for the gambling industry.
Apple has been pretty clear how it feels about gambling apps in the past, but the most recent updates to its App Store policies pretty much constitute an imminent crackdown on apps offering real-money gaming and sports betting services.
Under the recently updated Guideline 4.7. of the Review Guidelines, HTML5 games “distributed in apps may not provide access to real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations.” The guideline reads further that “this functionality is only appropriate for code that’s embedded in the binary and can be reviewed by Apple.”
The guideline has taken immediate effect for new gambling apps that are yet to be reviewed for publication in Apple’s App Store. However, publishers of existing apps must ensure that these are compliant with the new rules by September 3, 2019.
The App Store’s new guideline regarding the publication of gambling-related apps basically puts an end to a widespread practice of app developers repackaging gambling websites as apps via HTML5 technologies. In other words, most online casino and sports betting apps are coded with HTML5 as a mobile version of a website.
Apple now requires developers of gambling apps to include native functionality within those, that is to say all aspects of the apps must be native to iOS.
As per the updated guideline, new apps must be developed natively for iOS, while existing apps risk being wiped out of the App Store after September 3, if they are not compliant with the new rules.
What Does This Mean for the Gambling Industry?
The revised guidelines could have serious implications for the global gambling industry in a mobile first environment. While native apps offer better performance, personalization, and faster loading, among other things, they take longer to be developed and are certainly costlier.
Moreover, many operators will find the three-month heads-up they were given by Apple insufficient to ensure compliance with the new rules.
While major gambling corporations will be able to finance projects related to the development of native apps, the App Store’s new guidelines could cause a lot of trouble for smaller companies. Such companies could thus lose the large customer group of iOS devotees.
According to a recent report by Play Pennsylvania, the delay in the launch of online sports betting and online casino gaming in Pennsylvania was namely due to the App Store’s updated policies. Late last month, SugarHouse Casino finally launched the state’s first online sportsbook, but it is to be seen when operators will go live with online gaming.
First indications that something was brewing arrived early this year when multiple European gambling operators complained that they had issues publishing their apps in App Store. The issues were believed to stem from Guideline 4.2: Minimum Functionality of the App Store Review Guidelines, which reads that an app “should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website.”
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June 5, 2019