Apple: Need ‘concrete reason or a legal requirement’ to remove betting apps from App Store

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Responding to the Centre’s directives to remove betting apps from the app store, Apple, while not refusing to comply, has asked for a “concrete reason or a legal requirement” to follow them. The company contented that those betting apps were legal in other countries which makes it difficult to ban them “arbitrarily” in India without a proper reasoning.

Back in February, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) banned 138 gambling and betting apps. These included some of the most infamous apps such as Betway, Lotus365, FairPlay and others. Apple said that it has removed Betway and has asked MeitY for app identification numbers for other apps which are needed to be banned.

As per the sources Apple has three options after takedown orders are issued –
1. Refuse to comply and provide a valid reason
2. Seek legal recourse
3. Comply with the orders

Speaking to The Economic Times, eminent technology and gaming lawyer Jay Sayta stated that the wording of Section 69A of the IT Act might have provided a loophole to Apple.

“The wording of Section 69A of the IT Act is broad and uses terms like public order, security of the state and sovereignty of the country and so on which doesn’t necessarily cover gambling and betting,” Sayta said.

“In 2010, CERT-In did not accede to Maharashtra government’s request to block betting website Betfair stating that they could not take down some content because it was not violating the clauses of Section 69A. So, it is possible that Apple too made a case along these lines,” he added.

After the new rules for online gaming were announced by Minister of State for MeitY, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Apple was told to ensure that apps involving betting or wagering needed to be removed. As per the new rules the online gaming sector will be regulated through SROs who will decide which apps should be approved.

Managing partner at Krida Legal, Vidushpat Singhania, believes that the decision to ban these betting apps and websites might have been taken too soon as the SROs are yet to be formed.

“The fact that SROs/SRBs are still to be constituted and recognised by MeitY, could be the reason why it could be considered that the trigger has been pulled a little too soon, when it comes to banning these apps,” Singhania said.

“Betting and gambling is a state subject and while the Centre has come out with overarching guidelines for the online space, the power to classify whether an activity falls within the remit of betting and gambling in compliance with judicial precedent lies with the states,” he added.

Rakesh Maheshwari, in a recent interview, also spoke on the same lines.


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