New Delhi: Google, which earlier removed fantasy gaming apps and rummy games from Playstore, will allow select apps to operate on its platform under a pilot project for a year.
As part of Play Store gambling policies, Google earlier barred online casinos or supporting any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting, “including daily fantasy sports in India” and it had removed several apps that it observed were in violation of the guidelines.
Google Play said that it is conducting a limited-time pilot programme enabling the distribution of daily fantasy sports and rummy apps to users in India by developers incorporated in India in a way that delivers a safe and enjoyable user experience.
“From September 28, 2022, through September 28, 2023, Google Play will run a limited-time application-only pilot to allow DFS (Daily fantasy sports) and Rummy apps by developers incorporated in India to be distributed to users on Google Play in India,” Google said on the page.
All fantasy and rummy gaming companies have been facilitating the download of their apps directly from their own website.
Vernacular gaming firm WinZo co-founder Saumya Singh Rathore alleged that allowing a select category of games to operate on Google PlayStore is an example of “arbitrary platform policies and misuse of dominance”.
“While a change of stance by Google to finally open its platform to real money gaming apps is welcome, the selective exclusion of all real money skill games except Rummy and Fantasy is clearly discriminatory,” Rathore said.
She said that the Supreme Court has settled precedent on games of skill and it has been held that success in these games depends upon a substantial degree of skill involving players’ knowledge, training, attention, and experience, determining their success in such games.
“It is unreasonable for Google to only allow Rummy and Fantasy games while foreclosing the door for all other skill-based games that cumulatively form a bigger user base of over 500 million users in India. This is yet another example of arbitrary platform policies and misuse of dominance,” Rathore said.
Law firm TMT Law Practice Managing Partner Abhishek Malhotra said that a change of stand by Google to open Google play to very selective Real Money Gaming (RMG) products is welcome move, however, the selective exclusion of all RMG except rummy and fantasy is clearly discriminatory.
“There needs to be a rethink on this decision failing which Google may invite litigation. This certainly creates an unnecessary distinction between the different kinds of games offered under the RMG category in the fast-emerging gaming industry.
“Interestingly, no reasons seem to have been provided for why this limited category has been preferred by someone like Google, which has an overwhelming reach and consequently impact on businesses that appear to get its “approval” versus those that don’t,” Malhotra said.
When contacted, 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 learnings and retain an enjoyable and safe experience for our users.”
According to terms and conditions, game developers will need to comply with local laws, ensure that a person below 18 years of age is unable to access fantasy and rummy apps etc.
Games24x7 co-founder Bhavin Pandya said Google Play’s pilot programme to allow fantasy sports and rummy on the PlayStore could potentially be a game changer as the PlayStore has seen a 200 percent increase in active monthly users in India last year.
Paytm First Games (PFG) said that the gaming industry in India has huge potential to grow, driven by a young population, increased internet usage and smartphone users.
“This will be further driven by the increasing adoption of online platforms for playing card games such as Rummy and Poker and the popularity of Fantasy sports, owing to love for cricket among users across the country,” PFG said.
Primus Partners, Managing Director and Board Member, Sameer Jain said that Google’s move will also aid the growth of multiple sectors such as animation, visual effects, gaming, and comic (AVGC) sectors and disable offshore platforms to attract more revenue thereby enhancing government’s revenue collection as well as facilitate a predicted inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth $2.7 billion.