Apple’s App Review has made another sweeping change that is disrupting the lives of developers yesterday, kicking out a bunch of apps without warning that are for gambling. Many of the apps involved have either nothing resembling gambling mechanics in them. And many of these are from small developers who effectively have no recourse.
It appears that this was a massive overreach that is actively getting walked back by Apple, but it still highlights the fact that Apple can and will terminate your business on a whim, without warning, based on whatever reason they like. And since you can’t bypass the App Store like you can on Android, if your business depends on this, you’re toast. Decisions like this are why I don’t make my own iOS apps anymore.
Apple’s official line:
In order to reduce fraudulent activity on the App Store and comply with government requests to address illegal online gambling activity, we are no longer allowing gambling apps submitted by individual developers. This includes both real money gambling apps as well as apps that simulate a gambling experience.
As a result, this app has been removed from the App Store. While you can no longer distribute gambling apps from this account, you may continue to submit and distribute other types of apps to the App Store.
They’ve pulled magazine app (since restored), a GIF search app (since restored), a YouTube search app (since restored), a YouTube player, a photography app, a Reddit client (since restored), and many others. It’s unclear if these were all automated, though in at least one case it appeared to involve a call to Apple developer support. There’s also an 11 year old blackjack game and a poker chips calculator app, which possibly could fall under some definition of “simulated gambling”, which is now apparently against the rules for some reason.
Since there is no oversight of App Review or the rulings it makes, there is no way to know the full extent of the bans, how many apps were affected, or what percentage of them are being reinstated. Still, it sounds like this was an error at least some of the apps are returning. I’m sure the developers could’ve done without the panic attack from an email suddenly stating that their apps were kicked off, though.
Meanwhile, Apple continues to allow and profit heavily from apps with actual gambling mechanics like loot boxes and gacha games that encourage people, including minors, to gamble.