Google is piloting real money gaming apps in India after long disallowing such platforms on its Play Store marketplace, the company announced on Wednesday. The move is a significant step in the growing mainstreaming of these apps in India, even as increased taxation on winnings hangs over the industry’s head. Google is only allowing rummy and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) for this pilot, which will last one year starting September 28.
“We are constantly exploring ways for local developers to build successful businesses and offer delightful experiences on Google Play. Through this pilot program, we are taking a measured approach that will help us collate learnings and retain an enjoyable and safe experience for our users,” a Google spokesperson told Entrackr.
Games24x7, which runs RummyCircle, one of India’s largest Rummy platforms, indicated that it would apply to join the pilot. “This could potentially be a game changer as the Play Store has seen a 200% increase in active monthly users in India last year,” the firm’s co-founder Bhavin Pandya said in a statement.
Google in July started a similar pilot in Japan for “crane games,” a digital version of claw arcade machines. Most casino games, sports betting and fantasy sports apps are allowed — pending Google’s authorization — in nineteen countries. India has not been one of these countries.
Google says in its terms and conditions for this pilot that all submissions should be fresh apps — existing rummy apps that are played without staking real money shouldn’t be converted into real money experiences. Companies applying to the pilot should be incorporated in India.
Additionally, developers should incorporate geo-restriction arrangements for states like Telangana, where such games are prohibited by law. “Your DFS and/or Rummy App will not hand-off (link to/or direct users) to external gambling or money-game opportunities,” Google said in its terms for pilot participants, adding that companies will have to collect users’ PAN and bank account information.
Google will not be earning any commissions from players spending money in these apps; in fact, in-app billing will not be allowed at all in these apps. This is consistent with Google’s global gambling policy.
Google’s pilot could be a significant boon for developers in distributing their games to the tens of millions of Android users in India. While wagering apps have been spending big on slick advertisements on primetime TV spots, they have been restricted to making users download installation files from their websites instead of installing them from the Play Store, by far the largest app marketplace on Indian Android phones.
Of course, restrictions like the PAN requirement or the bank information will deter some prospects initially, but expect the market to find a way around that in time. The one-year period seems to acknowledge both the need to evaluate response as well as ground realities in India where the possibility of adverse court orders or even executive action will always exist over the industry.
Update (19:01): Added statement by Games24x7.