11 November 2022

Google pilot to allow distribution of fantasy sports and Rummy on Play Store | The Hindu Business Line

In a limited-time pilot programme, Google Play is enabling the distribution of daily fantasy sports (like Dream11, Halaplay) and rummy (such as RummyCircle, Rummy24) apps to Indian users by developers incorporated in India.

So far, fantasy sports and rummy game apps were distributed as .apk files on the respective company websites. This impacted customer reach and the discoverability of these games. The Google Play pilot will run from September 28, 2022, through September 28, 2023.

To participate in the pilot, developers will have to submit an application form and Google will then select the developers who will be allowed to participate. The participating apps cannot be paid apps and nor should they use Google Play in-app billion. The apps will have to be free to download and installed from the Google Play Store.

Commenting on the development, Suraj Chokhani, Managing Director, Ability Games (11wickets.com, rummy24.com, pokerlion.com) said, “Despite Google’s hegemony and seemingly arbitrary policies against gaming apps, the Indian online gaming industry has grown from strength to strength, garnering over 300 million downloads. The decision to allow rummy and fantasy sports apps is too little, too late, but is nonetheless a welcome first step. A lot more clarity is needed on the payment gateways that the apps listed on the Playstore can use, the criteria for listing, and whether other skill-based gaming apps will also be allowed. We will have to wait and watch to see how the situation unfolds in the near future.”

On the other hand, Sameer Barde, CEO of E-Gaming Federation, said, “It is a positive move and will allow players to essentially play on platforms that follow best practices. Furthermore, Google‘s measured approach to a safer user experience will encourage responsible gaming and help legitimate skill gaming operators grow while eliminating unscrupulous fly-by-night operators.”

Adding to this, Bhavin Pandya, Co-founder and Co-CEO of gaming unicorn Games24x7, which operates games like RummyCircle and My11Circle, said, “I am thrilled with the announcement of Google Play’s pilot programme to allow fantasy sports and rummy on the PlayStore. This could potentially be a game changer as the PlayStore has seen a 200 per cent increase in active monthly users in India last year.”

Discriminatory against other games of skill

Jay Sayta, Technology & Gaming Lawyer, also agreed that Google’s new pilot is a welcome decision but added that hopefully the pilot will also be extended to other recognised skill-based games such as poker, pool, chess, and carrom.

“Google’s policies for advertising and listing on the Playstore are often arbitrary and inexplicable. For the last several years, it has not allowed the Rummy and Fantasy sport apps on its platform despite there being clear judicial rulings recognising them as games of skill and a constitutional activity. Google should come up with a clear, transparent, non-arbitrary, and permanent policy for listing gaming apps on the Playstore and clearly define a fair revenue sharing mechanism between Playstore and the developer from the payments made for such games,” said Sayta.

Another industry source, speaking to BusinessLine on condition of anonymity, said, “The Google pilot programme is discriminatory and reeks of double standards because it eliminates all skill games other than fantasy games and rummy. All the court rulings in India have made a distinction between a game of skill and a game of chance. So Fantasy and Rummy are games of skill, but so are poker, chess, and pool. So to only select a few games of skills and not others is quite discriminatory to players of these other games.”

He added that Fantasy and Rummy are the two biggest revenue generators from an ad perspective, and so Google’s pilot programme launch is likely driven by ads and not any altruistic motive. “They allow real money games across many geographies of the world, excepting India. If the court judgement allows it, there is no rationale for them to not allow it,” the source noted.

In a statement to BusinessLine, a Google spokesperson said, “We are constantly exploring ways for local developers to build successful businesses and offer delightful experiences on Google Play. Through this pilot programme, we are taking a measured approach that will help us collate our learning and retain an enjoyable and safe experience for our users.”

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