App Store teaser

In yet another effort to appease to demanding Chinese regulators, Apple today confirmed it had removed gambling apps from App Store because they’re “illegal” and not permitted in China.

The purge may have affected as many as 25,000 apps.

The company said in a statement Monday to The Wall Street Journal:

Gambling apps are illegal and not allowed on App Store in China. We have already removed many apps and developers for trying to distribute illegal gambling apps on our App Store, and we are vigilant in our efforts to find these and stop them from being on App Store.

Apple has about 1.8 million apps on Chinese App Store, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The crackdown on gambling apps began earlier in August. Here’s what the Cupertino tech giant wrote in its email communique to all affected developers:

In order to reduce fraudulent activity on App Store and comply with government requests to address illegal online gambling activity, we are no longer allowing gambling apps submitted by individual developers. The includes both real money gambling apps as well as apps that simulate a gambling experience.

Apple has likely taken this step in another effort to protect its business in China, a massive 1.33 billion people market and its most important market outside of the United States (revenue from China increased by 19 percent in the June quarter).

MacRumors said earlier this month that some of those apps have very little to do with gambling. The ban applies to any apps that allow users “unrestricted web access.”

Earlier in August, a 30-minute special report on Chinese state-run media slammed Apple for allegedly allowing illegal content on its platform, such as gambling apps. The report provoked a reaction, with Apple telling Reuters it was in touch with domestic telco companies to see “what additional steps could be taken to reduce this inconvenience”.

This isn’t the first time Apple has found itself in hot waters over censorship.

As an example, Tim Cook & Co. have been talking to telecom companies in China to find ways to reduce spam received through its iMessage service.

And, one of its previous moves was removing unlicensed VPN apps from Chinese App Store and making other controversial steps designed to cater to Chinese government demands.

This comes amid growing tensions between the United States and China over trade. It remains to be seen if Apple’s latest move in China could help quell the latest challenge Apple faces in that country. As you’ve probably heard, the US and China have imposed tariffs on exported goods and are fighting over patents and technology.