Free-play mobile poker apps in the US could be under threat after Apple removed PokerBros from its store last week.
PokerBros launched in 2019, but gained notoriety this year thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns. The recent surge brought it to the attention of quarantined players around the world, particularly those in the United States.
New registrations in the US were stopped last week, due to what PokerBros described as “unexpected circumstances.”
Everything’s OK, Bro
The company has yet to disclose the reasons why its app was removed from the US Apple Store. Some poker players were quick to comment, calling it an “expected” move due to the app being a “scam.”
PokerBros representatives countered, tweeting that it’s a temporary issue localized to the US, and will be resolved in a few days.
Due to unexpected circumstances, the PokerBROS app was removed from the US Apple store yesterday. This means that for the next few days, new players will be unable to download the app from the US Apple Store. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
— PokerBROS (@PokerBrosApp) August 28, 2020
Further to our previous tweet, we expect the app to be back in the App Store for US customers within the next few days. Existing players with the app downloaded can still login as normal. This issue only impacts new downloads in the short term.
— PokerBROS (@PokerBrosApp) August 28, 2020
“Due to unexpected circumstances, the PokerBROS app was removed from the US Apple store yesterday. This means that for the next few days, new players will be unable to download the app from the US Apple Store,” PokerBros tweeted, adding that they expect the app to be back online “within the next few days.”
The mobile free-play poker provider followed its initial tweet with a workaround for US players. However, this may only fuel claims that PokerBros isn’t playing by the rules.
iOS download available on https://t.co/WkUSEyYPBj now for those US based players currently impacted by our temporary removal from the App Store
— PokerBROS (@PokerBrosApp) August 29, 2020
The app uses the “freemium” model. This structure is common in mobile gaming and gives customers the ability to download and use an app for free. In this instance, members can play private games with virtual chips.
However, in line with the freemium model, extras can be purchased for a cost. The PokerBros app allows users to buy packages of “play money” chips.
These chips can be used for private games and distributed to participants in a way the host sees fit. It’s also possible to sell the chips, something which could, in theory, contravene US gaming laws.
PokerBros Removal Could Signal Gaming Crackdown
There’s been nothing to suggest this is the reason for the app being removed. Indeed, it’s still available on Google Play (although some Android users have reported connectivity issues) and in countries outside of the US.
That hasn’t stopped the poker community from speculating, however.
It's a scam and people may well lose a lot of money, sorry do lose a lot of money because you delibertaely provide tools that can be used for real money without any vetting and so people can actively dodge taxes and accountability, that's 100% a scam when you are taking a fee.
— james mcgeorge (@jamesmcgeorge) August 29, 2020
PokerBros hasn’t provided any further clarification on the issue. We do know that Apple updated its terms and conditions in June 2019.
To monitor and control in-app transactions, Apple stated that HTML5 games could no longer be offered for real money. Operators wanting to offer real-money games were required to recode their apps in a language that only works on iOS. The initial deadline was 90 days, but was later extended to March 2020.
If Apple deems PokerBros to be a real-money gaming app and it hasn’t complied with these changes, that may be the reason for the shutdown. However, there may be other explanations.
PokerBros has been the talk of CardsChat forums since April. It may be that alleged controversies have forced Apple to review the app’s status.
Alternatively, there may have been political pressure. With online poker surging during the lockdown period and PokerBros walking the line between what’s legal and what’s not, Apple may have taken action due to regulatory concerns.
PokerBros has assured US customers that this is a temporary issue. However, with Apple seemingly as fickle as law enforcement agencies, it could be the start of a crackdown on social poker apps in the US.