Google Removes 56 Gambling Apps from Store for Breach of Vietnam Laws

Smartphone with online poker table superimposed

Google has removed 56 gambling apps from its Google Play App store, claiming that they were in breach of Vietnam’s gambling laws, according to a local report.

Limiting access to Vietnam gamblers

The removal of the apps comes because of a request from Vietnam. The country’s prime minister, Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, called for increased cooperation with technology firms to prevent the chance of malicious information being spread.

According to a report from the Vietnam News, the 56 Google apps that were removed were in Vietnamese and thus targeted gamblers in the country. Of the 56, 16 violated Google Play rules, which include exploiting users’ data.

The other 40 were removed in response to a request from the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEL). Lê Quang Tự Do, deputy director of the ABEL, said that it had asked Google and Apple to block users in Vietnam from downloading the games from their app stores. Nationals of Vietnam are prohibited from participating in games that mimic casinos.

Gambling is mostly illegal in Vietnam. However, the country’s National Assembly recently passed a bill that legalizes sports betting. In a country where illegal sports betting has been a blight, this report notes that the legalization makes economic sense. With the approval of the bill, the government can tax the industry while the police force can be utilized elsewhere.

The bill is not expected to go into effect until January a, 2019, so authorities still have to work to crack down on the illegal industry.

App removals

Google’s removal of gambling apps from its store comes as other organizations are taking similar steps.

In June, the People’s Republic of China banned Texas Hold’em poker apps. This ban also included other poker-style social-gaming apps that can be used on mobile phones. The decision to ban them followed an allegation that the apps weren’t serving the purpose of “free-to-play” games. Instead, it was alleged that their role was that of real-money gambling activities, which are illegal in China.

It was reported in August that Apple was cracking down on gambling apps in its App Store. Moreover, the report noted that Apple’s move to delete the gambling apps resulted in deleting some that it shouldn’t have. Those that were unduly impacted were worried about a drop in revenue when their non-gambling apps became temporarily unavailable.

More recently, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) removed an ad betting brand after it was believed to target young children. The betting brand was William Hill and the ad, Vegas games, is reported to have been found in an app called New Mario Kart 8 Trick.

According to William Hill, 86% of its players were over the age of 18. It also stated that it would “never knowingly target children.” The ASA, which found that the app had a PEGI rating 3, which means suitable for all ages, disagreed. Last month, the advertising regulator said, “The ad must not be used again without further specific targeting to minimize the likelihood of under-18s being exposed to it.”

In an age in which mobile phones and electronic devices help some people make a living, it is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor what people are doing on them. Something that is an innocent game to one individual may be something else to another.

To limit the impact that mobile gambling can have, authorities and technology companies need to work together to achieve the same outcome. The move from Google illustrates its commitment to making this happen.