Google to Permit Online Gambling Apps in Indian App Store

Despite hosting the world’s second largest population, online gambling has not yet taken off on the Indian sub-continent in the same way that it has in many other Asian and African countries. Whilst some observers have speculated that this may be a simple consequence of the countries relatively low per-capita income, others have been quick to point out the flourishing online gambling market in nearby Asian nations despite their citizens collecting similar average annual salaries. 

Regulation in India

In truth, there are probably several reasons for the slow adoption of online gambling in India. Perhaps most importantly, there are no federal laws in place right now to regulate the operation of online gambling websites; as a consequence of this, it is far too easy for unscrupulous operators to set up dishonest “casinos” or sportsbooks that refuse to pay out winnings or offer unfair games designed to cheat their customers. Sites such as provide an invaluable resource for Indian players seeking to find a trustworthy online casino, but such sites are not yet well-known amongst the Indian population.

Poor experiences caused by dishonest operators have turned many regular Indians against the idea of gambling online, and several states have already begun to draft new laws prohibiting the activity. Online gambling is currently only explicitly legal in the states of Goa, Daman, and Sikkim, but many other states are now in a grey area whereby Indian companies are prohibited from offering online gambling services, yet offshore casinos are free to market their casinos, sportsbooks, poker rooms and bingo halls to Indian players. 

The Mobile Market

Indian citizens, like those of many other large developing nations, have been quick to adopt smartphone technology for daily activities such as online banking, shopping, and mobile payments. Google’s Android absolutely dominates this enormous market of 1.38 billion people, as the price of Apple’s iPhone handsets is far too high for the majority of those living and working in India. 

Those who have been keeping up with the news surrounding Apple may find this fact somewhat ironic, as the US tech giant has recently switched production of its iPhone handsets to India from their previous base in China. For many Indians, the fact that the iPhone is now manufactured in their country has only served to further undermine its reputation, as the handsets are still prohibitively expensive for more than 90% of the working population.

Realistically, this leaves Android as the only major smartphone platform currently available in India. This gives Google an enormous amount of power to control what Indians can see and access using their phones, forcing the company to think carefully before permitting or prohibiting any app or service that applies to join the country’s Google Play store. 

What Has Changed?

Google prohibited online gambling apps from its Play Store in all world markets until around 2015, but the rules were changed as many large, trustworthy companies had begun to offer downloadable .APK files on their own websites to sidestep the prohibition. This allowed dishonest companies to offer their downloadable casino apps in the same way as legitimate casinos, eventually creating a situation where the ban was doing more harm than good. 

Because there are no federal laws regulating online gambling in India, this decision also applied to the Indian version of the Play Store. Indian companies were blocked from posting gambling apps in the store, however, due to the same law that allows offshore companies to offer online gambling to Indians whilst prohibiting local companies from doing the same thing. Now, Google has changed this rule to allow Indian gambling apps as long as they are government approved and fit into one of the following categories:

  • Online Casino Games
  • Sports Betting
  • Horse Racing (Where regulated & licensed separately from sports betting)
  • Lotteries
  • Fantasy Sports

It is notable that both bingo and poker are missing from the list, two categories that are reasonably popular with some Indian gamblers. It remains to be seen whether this was simply an oversight, or a deliberate decision on the part of Google. 

Company’s that do wish to offer their online gambling apps to Indians have one small issue at the moment – Google are not currently permitting gambling apps from accepting real money bets. This rule is less serious than it sounds, as it only applies to googles own payment systems – in short, players can still use their own bank accounts or cards but cannot fund their casino accounts using the Play Store accounting system. 

It is unclear if google barred the use of its payment system because it does not want to be involved n the financial side of gambling, or if they are trying to force players to use virtual currency that cannot cause a real-world financial loss.