Apple Halts Gambling Ads on App Store After Receiving Complaints

October 31st, 2022: Ads are the lifeblood of many businesses, including apps and websites. But for Apple and its growing community of developers, something odd and troubling happened along the way. 

According to multiple reports and complaints from some developers, gambling ads have popped up on the App Store. As a result, apple’s App Store expanded its offering by featuring new ad slots like the Today tab and another tab for “You Might Also Like” which users can see at the bottom of the individual add listing. Unfortunately, the once innocent set of ads became an instant deluge of ads that appear marketed alongside the developers, some against kids’ apps, and in one instance, against a gambling addiction recovery app. 

After receiving criticisms, Apple responded by pausing the ads related to gambling and other categories this week.

A New Ads Placement Policy Gone Wrong

Last October 25th, Apple released an advisory about its new Apple Search Ads. Under this new product, Apple makes it easier for developers to market their apps on the App Store. In the same press release, the company shared the addition of the “New Today” tab and the product page ad placements that allow users to discover apps online.

But hours after activation of the policy, developers shared some examples and screenshots of gambling ads recommended under their apps. For example, one Twitter user shows a few screenshots showing inappropriate ad placements, like being partnered alongside a gambling recovery app. Some advertisements are shown on apps for children. In addition, some users also noticed a few adult chat apps on display under the Apple Books page. And in another post, ads for dating apps are seen under apps that offer tips on how to improve relationships.

Apple Pauses Ads, Future Uncertain

Apple immediately acted on the issue and paused the gambling-related ads.  However, the company did not say how long the pause would be or how it would respond to calls for policy changes. The company was also silent on what other categories were affected by the change in ads policy.

Gambling advertisements are sensitive issues right now. The gambling category is controversial, and many developers on the App Store are hesitant to share the marketplace with these types of apps. In addition, apple’s rules on advertising allow apps for gambling, alcohol, and the medical industry and fall under “restricted”. In short, specific rules govern its display, subject to rules and laws specific to a country.

How Apple proceeds with this issue will have a lingering effect on its flagship iPhone. According to some reports, the company plans to expand the advertisements outside the App Store to include apps like Podcasts, Maps, and Books. The good news is that Apple can take a page or two from other companies with similar experiences. For example, Google has a policy that regulates the display of ads. Google limits the number of ads users can see about sensitive topics like gambling and alcohol.

The gambling ads issue is a crucial talking point for Apple that it needs to address immediately. In addition, Apple often talks about the security and safety of the App Store and needs to maintain this branding and reputation. So what the company does in the next few days will impact its policy and reputation.

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