4,000 Gambling Apps Purged from Apple’s China Apps Store
Apple services in China had to pull 4,000 gambling apps from its Apps Store, a part of a wide-ranging purge of over 25,000 downloadable apps on the Chinese version of the Apps Store. Since the purge, Chinese media outlets like China Central Television and Xinhua have criticized Apple for not meeting the standard requirements to filter out illegal content.
Many of the iPhone and iPad gaming downloads classified as gambling apps by Chinese agencies were mobile applications which allowed users to buy fake lotterytickets. An Apple spokesman said that it had removed many individual apps and even offending developers, but had not located all of them in the China region.
The Apple spokesman said, “Gambling apps are illegal and not allowed on the App Store in China. We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on the App Store.”
Apple’s Chinese Operations
The sheer number of developers on the Apps Store in China, reported to be around 1.8 million developers, makes it difficult to police those designers’ applications. Still, Apple makes tremendous amounts of revenue from the China market, so it should devote the resources to assuring Apple users in China cannot download illegal apps.
One-fifth of Apple’s yearly revenue comes from sales in China, totaling nearly $17 billion a year. China is Apple’s second biggest market in the world, after only the United States. Beyond that, Apple has plenty of motivation to avoid trouble with Chinese officials. A large proportion of Apple iPads, iPads, and Mac computers are manufactured in China.
Is Gambling Legal in China?
While various forms of gaming are popular in China — such as lotteries and eSports — most forms of gambling have been illegal on the Chinese mainland since the 1970s. Horse racing is accepted in certain areas as a game enjoyed by the wealthy elite, who have the discretionary money to spend on gaming within safe bounds. A few regional lotteries have been allowed over the years, but such lottery gaming have a history of being banned on a whim.
In Hong Kong, certain forms of gambling remain under English-era regulations, though it has been 21 years since the United Kingdom’s 99-year lease ended and Hong Kong was handed back to China.
Macau Casino Industry
When Macau, a former Portuguese colony, was handed over to China in 1999, the city was allowed to maintain its casino industry. In fact, where Macau had been a provincial backwater without the infrastructure for mass market casino gaming in the Portuguese era, Beijing officials allowed Macau to build the city into the world’s primary casino destination — at one point generating 7 times the revenue of Las Vegas each year. American casino companies like Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts, and Las Vegas Sands were allowed to build multi-billion dollar casino-resorts on the Cotai Strip in Macau.
Otherwise, all other forms of gambling are illegal in China. Over the past several years, regional Chinese police has launched massive raids that target illegal gambling operators. Often, those raids include a dragnet for the gamblers themselves, who can be punished for their illegal gambling habits.
Chinese Online Lottery Bans
China’s online and mobile apps have increasingly has been policed by authorities, just as gambling on the Internet in general has been policed. Several semi-legal or illegal online lotteries have been shut down in the past 5 years. Before that, millions of Chinese users of social media sites played the banned lottery games.
More recently, the newly-formed Culture Ministry banned references to poker on Chinese and Hong Kong social media. References to Texas Hold’em, poker chips, or other card playing terminology was banned. Because it made advertising to Chinese citizens impossible and because it signaled disapproval from Beijing officials, Macau’s casinos closed down their poker rooms.
Apple Apps Store in China
Thus, it is part of an ongoing pattern to police online and mobile gaming activity. The lottery apps in particular remain popular with everyday Chinese Internet users. One can expect Apple to take a particularly close look at its Chinese lottery gaming content in the near future — or at least it should.
The Wall Street Journal reported that most of the Chinese Apps Store purges occurred in July. Since no other actions have been reported since then, it appears that it is business-as-usual for Apple in the time being. Given the multiple state-affiliated Chinese media outlets which criticized Apple in public for its actions, Apple executives should have gotten the message.
In the past few days, ZDNet reported that Apple had conducted its own purge of its gaming apps in China, to be sure it is in compliance. This is not the first time Apple has faced official sanction, as it has had to purge its Apps Stores in Australia and in certain Scandinavian countries over the years. China is a much bigger market, though.