Apple Misfires in Gambling App Purge

Robert C. Richardson - 06 Nov 2018

apple-phones-pyramidApple has recently been cracking down on unregulated gambling apps. But while the intention is to protect players and legal operators from unlicensed activities, in some cases the technology giant has seriously missed the mark.

Apps that have nothing to do with bookmakers or casinos have been targeted and purged, with casualties including a GIF-sharing service, a Polish magazine, and a platform that allows Xbox players to send clips of their games to friends. These erroneously identified applications have been removed from the App Store, and according to reports that developers are furious.

A State-Requested Crackdown

Apple’s latest attempts to identify and remove unregulated gambling apps stems from the requests of various state operators. These entities were concerned that players could access facilities that were not licensed by the appropriate jurisdictions. This would leave them unprotected and vulnerable to fraud, and take away business from legitimate enterprises.

The software and hardware company has always had a strict policy on betting operations, and recent appeals from Dutch and other authorities have led to even more rigorous actions. In particular, 38 unlicensed applications were dropped after the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA) wrote to the corporation in May 2018, making a case for the eliminations.

Following the NGA’s successful campaign, several illegitimate apps can no longer be accessed from the Norwegian App Store. Included in the blockade were applications for Unibet, Mr. Green, LeoVegas, Betsson, Nordic Bet and other popular facilities. At the same time businesses licensed under the European Union Free Trade Zone, such as Comeon and Coolbet, maintained their legal status and are still available to Norwegian App Store users.

Unrelated Apps Affected

Unfortunately, as Apple has tried to rid its App Store of illegitimate gambling operators, several apps that have nothing to do with such activities have been caught in the crossfire. Copenhagen-based developer Simon Stovring’s Gifferent app, which enables the sharing of GIFs, is among the incorrectly identified and now-blockaded applications.

Stovring says that at least 10 of his colleagues have also been hit unfairly, and adds that the mechanisms being used to detect gambling-related content have not been explained with enough clarity. Whatever these methods are, they also seem to have failed in the case of the Poland-based iMagazine. The publication’s co-owner, Wojtek Peitrusiewicz, complained about what was happening on Twitter.

On 9 August 2018 Peitrusiewicz took to the social networking site and said that iMagazine was struck from the App Store just 24 hours after its 3.0 update was approved. He added that he received a message from Apple explaining that the measure had been taken to comply with governmental requests that they address illegal betting activities.

The next steps of the wrongfully targeted developers, and Apple itself, remain to be seen. However, as often seems to be the case with online casinos and bookmakers, controversy continues to swirl even when the correct applications were removed. Critics point out that this is likely to simply push problem gamblers deeper into the black market.

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