Apple Gambling Apps Granted Six Month Extension for Compliance

Apple has announced an extension to the time gambling operators will have to comply with updated Apple App Store guidelines.

On 3 June 2019, Apple updated 4.7 of its App Store Review Guidelines as a result of which iOS “real money gaming”[1] apps must now be built natively – that is to say built with Apple’s iOS operating system in mind – rather than the app simply acting as a container for a platform running outside of the Apple environment on an operator’s website

Currently, when a user downloads one of these HTML5-wrapped/non-Apple native apps from the Apple App Store, certain source code (e.g. graphics, UX and game content (but not the game logic)) will be downloaded and cached on the user’s phone. The user is actually playing on the relevant game provider’s servers outside of the app (where the game engine is hosted), but it will seem to the user as if they are still within the Apple environment.

The rule change applied immediately to any new real money gaming apps looking to feature in the Apple App Store but gave those real money gaming apps already available on the Apple App Store a grace period until 3 September 2019 to be compliant.

In the face of industry concern at the tight timelines, Apple has announced a sixth month extension to the original deadline and at the same time reiterated its rationale for the rule change:

In order to provide users with the secure and curated experience that they expect on the App Store, we have always specified that apps must be self-contained bundles. This means that the core features and functionality of the app must be contained within the binary of the software, rather than made possible by referring users outside of the approved app, including through the use of HTML5. Apps that provide core features and functionality dynamically with web technology like HTML5 are best delivered to everyone in Safari, rather than through the curated App Store.

The extension will be music to the ears of affected operators; many of whom faced having to re-write their entire HTML5 library of games – a monumental task when it can take around 8 weeks to port a single game into an iOS native game.

Stuart Godfree, managing director of app development firm mkodo said in an interview with Gambling Compliance published on 12 September 2019[2], that he believes there may be yet more good news:

Three months to change architecturally how you embed your games onto iOS apps is very difficult. The good news is that during its developer conference in June, Apple appeared to take issue with HTML5 games, which is now not the case. Apple is happy for HTML5 games to be embedded in apps, which is the direction most of the industry is now taking,

If this is indeed the case then this represents a significant clarification for operators as the ability for casino apps in particular to bundle their HTML5 games will allow them to continue to offer numerous different games in a single app, something which had been unclear in Apple’s original 4.7 guidelines.

Separately, Apple has announced that from April 2020, “all-new apps and app updates will need to be built with the iOS 13 SDK and support the all-screen design of iPhone XS Max or later”.

 

 

[1] “Real Money Gaming” is defined in the Apple App Store Review Guidelines as sports betting, poker, casino games and horse racing.

[2] https://gamblingcompliance.com/premium-content/insights_analysis/apple-grants-gambling-app-compliance-extension-clarity (behind a paywall).