How Do You Like Them Apples? New iOS Policy Threatens Online Casinos

Written By Bart Shirley on June 5, 2019 - Last Updated on September 19, 2023
Online Casino Apple App Problem

Another day, another hurdle for PA online casinos. This time, the problem comes from a policy change on the Apple Store that profoundly affects gambling sites.

Specifically, the June 3 update to the App Store Review Guidelines contained the following language:

Guideline 4.7. HTML5 games distributed in apps may not provide access to real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations, and may not support digital commerce. This functionality is only appropriate for code that’s embedded in the binary and can be reviewed by Apple. This guideline is now enforced for new apps. Existing apps must follow this guideline by September 3, 2019.

This language codifies the rumors that had persisted about iOS gambling app development for some time. In black and white, we now have an explanation for why Pennsylvania apps are slow to release for Apple users.

An Apple Problem A Day Is Haunting PA | PlayPA Gambling News from Catena Media US on Vimeo.

Apple Store Rule Change A Big Problem For Casino Apps | PlayUSA Gambling News from Catena Media US on Vimeo.

What does this mean for online gambling apps?

For those who are less comfortable with technology, this update does not offer much meaning. However, for developers, it represents an enormous demand from the App Store.

More or less, Apple now requires that apps which engage in monetary transactions must be written in code native to the iOS system. That means that developers who write their programs using other software, like HTML5, must completely revise their code or risk their apps’ removal from the App Store.

As it turns out, many casino app developers use HTML5 to write their programs. Unfortunately, codes do not transfer over quite easily.

In other words, online gambling app developers cannot merely “cut and paste” their apps into a new format. They will have to do the equivalent of rewriting the entire document.

Even worse, the update’s Sep. 3 deadline really doesn’t leave enough time for developers to redo their code. According to The App Solutions, a 3-to-4 month timeline is the bare minimum to achieve any sort of working app, and not a very polished one, at that.

There’s good and bad news for online sportsbook apps

Of course, the buzz in online gambling right now surrounds sports betting, rather than casino wagering. That’s not to say that there aren’t any active online casinos, but the emphasis in most states is on wagering for sporting events.

The good news is that many new sports betting apps may find themselves with a relatively simple conversion. If they are standalone programs, moving to a native iOS code won’t be excessively difficult.

What will determine the level of problem is how integrated the sportsbook is with its online casino counterpart. Although convenient for end customers, a fully-integrated sportsbook is an issue. For the sportsbook may not have HTML 5 issues, but nearly are casino titles are coded with HTML 5 and it is not an easy fix.

With any luck, most of the app developers in soon-to-open states will have had the foresight to develop the sportsbook independently. Otherwise, iOS users might find themselves with an annoying delay before they can begin betting.

Developers across the spectrum are chafing at Apple

Apple’s motivation for the language in the update is quite clear. Simply put, the company wants the ability to independently review each money-making app hosted on its online marketplace.

While that may seem reasonable, developers in many different fields are finding the demand to be overly intrusive. The notion of a massive corporation having review capability is quite troubling for those who rely upon their intellectual property for their livelihoods.

To submit the fruits of their labor to this kind of scrutiny is unacceptable to many entrepreneurial dev teams. Perhaps that’s why Apple is now facing a lawsuit that alleges its practices are monopolistic and illegal under the law.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a writer and poker player from Houston, Texas. A former teacher of high school math and business, Bart writes about online casinos, sports betting and poker for a number of Catena Media's Play-branded sites. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M.

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