With regulated online poker sites in the United States already struggling due to limited player pools, access to as many potential users as possible is an absolute must. But a new rule issued by Apple last week might make it more difficult for online gambling operators to court iOS users.
Last week, Apple announced that it would no longer allow gambling apps to be built using embedded HTML5 code, instead requiring such apps to be built in native iOS code that would have to be approved by the company before it any such apps could appear in the App Store.
Apple Targets HTML5 Games
The new ruling doesn’t impact all apps. Instead, it is part of a new guideline that seems specifically targeted at certain kinds of monetary transfers.
“HTML5 games distributed in apps may not provide access to real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations, and may not support digital commerce,” read Guideline 4.7 in a June 3 update. “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 Sept. 3, 2019.”
Such a ruling is likely to cause trouble for a range of online gambling operators. Not only are most modern casino and poker platforms built in HTML5 – which means many apps in development might have to be scrapped, since they won’t pass muster under the new rules – but the timeline given to existing apps may not be long enough for operators to confidently port their programs over to iOS code, which could lead to some apps disappearing in September.
That might not cause too much trouble for users right away: after all, if you already have an app downloaded, it won’t be forcibly removed from your phone. But it would stop new players from getting the apps, and the fact that the App Store no longer will support updates for such apps would inevitably cause serious issues to develop.
Timeline Leaves Operators With Tough Decisions
While the policy move away from “wrappers” that contain HTML5 games to completely native iOS code isn’t surprising – Apple has been having trouble policing illegal gambling apps in many jurisdictions for some time, so a crackdown was expected – the short timeline is likely to cause issues.
Since many serious poker players utilize a desktop or laptop computer for long sessions of multi-tabling, poker actually might see the least disruption from this policy change, though making life harder even for a small number of casual players isn’t ideal for the US poker scene at the moment.
Meanwhile, online casinos and sportsbooks could take a huge hit. In New Jersey, it has become clear that mobile play is what has driven the success of the sports betting industry, with mobile users generating three-quarters or more of the betting handle in the state. Sportsbooks that currently rely on apps for mobile play will struggle to build new iOS versions and gain approve – not just by Apple, but also from state regulators – by the Sept. 3 deadline, a date that happens to fall just two days before the start of the NFL season.
Meanwhile, online casino developers will be forced to port code over for every individual game, a process that will likely take significantly more than three months. That could be an expensive and labor-intensive process even for major developers, some of whom may well decide that it would be better to send their users to web-based platforms rather than try to rebuild an entire casino from scratch.