Google Dropping Longstanding U.S. Ban On Sports Betting, Casino Apps In The Play Store

Shares in several top sports betting companies such as DraftKings and Penn National Gaming popped on Thursday afternoon amid reports that Google is reversing longstanding policies banning mobile sports wagering and casino apps on its Google Play Store platform in the U.S.

Until now, the Play Store has allowed content and services that facilitate online gambling apps in only a few countries worldwide, most notably France, Ireland, and the U.K. While Google also allows certain gambling apps in Brazil, the offerings are limited to those approved by Caixa Economica Federal, a government-owned financial institution.

Under the policy change that takes effect March 1, Google will allow real-money gambling apps, ads related to real-money gambling, and daily fantasy sports apps within the Play Store. Google apparently modified the policies related to sports betting apps on Jan. 20, a change that was first reported on Thursday by Reuters.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the timing of the March policy change in an email to US Bets Thursday evening.

Strict limitations

Beginning March 1, developers in 15 additional countries will be able to offer sports betting and casino apps through the Play Store. Developers in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan, and Mexico are among the group of new countries that stand to benefit from the policy changes. The developers must complete a rigorous application process before the Android apps are allowed in the Play Store.

For one, the gaming app must comply with all applicable laws and industry standards for each country in which it is distributed, according to Google’s Developer Program Policy for Real-Money Gambling, Games, and Contests. In addition, Google’s policy stipulates that a developer must have a valid gambling license for each country, state, or territory where the app is offered.

Other requirements for app developers:

  • Developer must not offer a type of gambling product that exceeds the scope of its gambling license
  • App must prevent under-age users from using the app
  • App must prevent access and use from countries, states/territories, or the geographic areas not covered by the developer-provided gambling license
  • App must NOT be purchasable as a paid app on Google Play, nor use Google Play In-app Billing
  • App must be free to download and install from the Store
  • App must be rated AO (Adult Only) or IARC equivalent
  • App and its app listing must clearly display information about responsible gambling

The requirements appear to be aimed at promoting responsible gaming and preventing mobile sports wagering by minors, two areas of concern among stakeholders since the 2018 PASPA ruling that removed a broad federal ban on sports wagering outside of Nevada. As New York moves closer to legalizing mobile sports betting, the state has emphasized the need for a responsible gambling framework.

While Google has historically resisted lifting the Play Store’s U.S. ban on mobile sports betting apps, it has offered a “trial/beta” period to allow DFS apps in the store. Currently, Droid users can only obtain mobile sports betting apps directly from the sportsbook operator’s website.

Increased activations

The policy change will almost certainly increase activations from major U.S. sportsbooks. On Thursday, American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller noted in a closely watched 2021 forecast that mobile sports betting will play a pivotal role in the gaming industry’s continued recovery from the downturn brought about by COVID-19. Last year’s U.S. sports betting handle likely surpassed $21 billion, while mobile sports wagering represented about 82% of all wagers since last March, Miller said.

Last February, before a lengthy global sports freeze, downloads of U.S. mobile sports betting apps surged 84% on a year-over-year basis, according to research from Morgan Stanley. While app downloads in the mobile sports betting space fell in April at the height of the shutdown, downloads surged more than 210% last May amid signs that a slew of professional sports were ready to return.

Last week, BetMGM received over 200,000 successful logins by customers within eight hours of its Michigan launch, spokesperson Elisa Richardson told US Bets. Yet BetMGM ranked fourth in incremental downloads among sportsbooks over the first three days of mobile sports betting in Michigan, according to Bank of America.

DraftKings said Thursday that the company will bring its Sportsbook & Casino app to the U.S. when the Play Store policy takes effect, 9-to-5Google.com reported.

DraftKings closed on Thursday at $56.17 a share, up 3.50%. Penn National’s shares jumped 9.55% to $107.03, nearing a 52-week high.

Toronto-based theScore also benefitted from the move, gaining about 7% in Thursday’s session.

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