Tech giant Apple has removed thousands of gambling apps from its China-facing App Store, but Chinese authorities appear to believe that the purge was far from complete.
On Sunday, the state-run Global Times media outlet announced that Apple had removed over 2,000 gambling-related apps on August 9, following that up with the removal of over 500 apps related to “fake lottery tickets.”
However, the report claimed that “loopholes” remained that allowed app developers to continue providing updates and push notifications to users who’d already installed the apps on their mobile devices. The report urged Apple to “cut the account link between illegal apps and the App Store” after these apps are purged from the site.
On Saturday, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported that Apple had actually purged 25,000 apps – although that figure is stated only in the headline, as the article itself cites only the 2,000 and 500 figures repeated in the Global Times article.
In response to the reports, Apple issued a statement on Monday saying that it had removed “many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps” and the company would remain “vigilant” in detecting and purging similar apps in future.
In June, Chinese authorities issued a public warning to illegal sports lottery operators taking wagers on the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The following month, CCTV aired a report detailing widespread illegal lottery activity on Tencent’s social platform QQ.
China ordered the ‘temporary’ suspension of online lottery sales in March 2015, although this suspension remains in force to this day. All other forms of online gambling are strictly illegal, although online networks such as WeChat are replete with informal lottery pools that utilize the so-called ‘hongbao’ aka ‘red envelope’ money transfer system.
Earlier this month, Apple purged gambling apps from its Norway-facing App Store after local gaming regulators objected to anyone horning in on the turf of the state-run Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto online gambling monopolies.
Also this month, Apple was found to have mistakenly over-purged many apps that had nothing to do with gambling, including a Polish magazine whose editors publicly expressed confusion as to what they’d done to earn Apple’s ire.