Gambling Market for iOS

There are hundreds of millions of iPhones in use out there in the world. The iPhone being just one device running on iOS, alongside iPad and iPod touch. With such a huge market, developers work hard to constantly launch successful apps that might bring them a nice profit.

Real money gaming apps, casinos and bookmakers, represent one category of apps that is particularly lucrative and volatile when it comes to iOS. These apps need to constantly be updated to meet the latest developer rules issued by Apple.

Apple is extremely strict when it comes to online gambling. As they should be as these apps can be a liability if they are not licensed and trustworthy. A new guideline issued by Apple in the summer of 2019 has severe implications for existing and new gambling apps.

New Online Casinos Guideline in App Store

At the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple made a huge announcement regarding new casino related software available in the App Store. It was broken down in two main parts:

  1. Existing and new casinos apps have to be native to iOS. That means they have to be precisely developed for Apple’s operating system. Apps developed on the popular HTML5 framework can no longer provide access to real money gambling.
  1. The initial deadline for developers to update their apps was September 3, 2019, a nearly impossible three months. This was later pushed back to March 3, 2020, giving developers a much needed breathing room.

To put it in their words, Apple said that “Apps containing or running code that is not embedded in the binary cannot provide access to real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations, among other changes.”

It goes further to highlight in their guideline 4.7 that HTML5 based gaming apps are still supported in the App Store as long as they don’t involve real money. While this is not very helpful if you want to play to win money, at least it allows users to enjoy a fun, risk-free gaming experience.

Implications of Native Apps

The award-winning Degree 53 digital agency took an in-depth look at the steps apps need to take in order to meet Apple gambling guidelines. It came to the conclusion that it is a time-consuming and costly task for casino apps to become fully compliant with the new guidelines.

Casino and sportsbooks apps are very complex to begin with. To start an app from scratch, fully featured with all its functionalities compliant requires vast amounts of time, effort and money. Because of this, the initial three month deadline sent shockwaves among online gambling app operators. Fortunately, Apple later announced that it would extend the deadline for an additional 6 months.

Effects on Online Gaming Market

The main online casinos and bookmakers, those that earn millions in revenue, will not have any big issues to update their apps to comply with the latest guidelines. It is time-consuming but the extended deadline makes it much more manageable.

It is the smaller and new casino app developers that are most affected by the new guideline. They will have to make the tough decision whether or not to develop a native iOS app. They may choose to bypass iOS apps altogether and stick with Android ones. After all, they are a cheaper and faster alternative.

On top of this, Android is by far the leader in the global market share of smartphone operating systems. According to Statista in 2019, Android OS held an 87% of the total market share, compared to 13% for iOS.

With these one-sided figures, it might look like the hassle to develop new online casinos apps native to iOS is simply not worth it. However, when you zoom in on the UK and US, things are much more balanced. Apple’s iOS market share is nearly 50% in both nations.

This is an extremely important figure as the UK and the US are some of the world’s largest gambling countries. While in the UK online gambling has long been permitted, the US is just now starting to allow this industry to expand. Still, with a population of over 300 million people, the US is set to become a leading market in online gambling as restrictions are lifted among different states.

So on a global level, Android is much more popular than iOS. But on a gambling level, both operating systems are gateways to millions of people and millions of potential revenue for its developers. This is what makes the decision so difficult for small and new gambling apps developers.

They may not have the resources or money to invest in developing a native iOS app for their gambling operation. This is especially true for new casino sites and sportsbooks that have limited financial resources.

To make matters twice as difficult, Apple announced a separate operating system for its tablets. Up until last year, iPhones and iPads ran on the same iOS. However, from now on iPads will run on its own iPad OS. Basically, this means that a casino operator would need to develop two separate native apps for Apple: one for its iPhone users, the other for the iPad users.

But down the line, these gambling apps will definitely want to make themselves available into the App Store as it is key to millions of players. There are also numerous advantages of a native app that players enjoy.

Advantages of Native iOS Apps

A native app is one that is developed specifically for Apple’s operating system. The company encourages and now enforces casino apps to be native to its iOS for various reasons. The main advantages of native apps are that they offer:

  • Fast and optimum performance
  • High degree of reliability and safety
  • Apps are more intuitive and interactive providing a better user experience

These advantages combined with its vast market share, makes it easy to see why sports and casino operators are leaning towards developing native iOS apps. Regardless of the time and money effort, the potential is too good to be ignored.

In fact, there are currently over 200 casino-related apps available in the App Store. These are all native iOS apps. They may have been coded and developed originally for iOS. But it’s more likely that most of them were updated and developed from scratch to comply with Apple’s latest gambling apps guidelines.

Apple and Gambling Overview

Apple has long earned a reputation that it is an anti-gambling company. Throughout the years, it has repeatedly removed gambling apps in locations where gambling is tightly regulated or completely banned.

Another important measure taken by Apple concerns the social gaming apps. These apps that offer any simulated gambling activity are restricted to individuals under the age of 17 years old. This applies to any free games apps that do not involve any real money.

Furthermore, Apple’s newly launched Apple Credit Card cannot be used for any physical or digital gambling transactions.

On top of these measures, the latest requirement that all gambling apps are native to the iOS may seem anti-gambling. However, it is not as much that Apple is against online gambling as a whole. It simply wants to distance itself from the industry as a whole.