Digital payments app PayTM has seen its service suspended from the Google app store over breaches of gambling rules related to illegal IPL betting.
Google took the action one day before the world’s most lucrative franchise T20 tournament, the IPL, gets underway in the UAE.
Gambling of any kind is illegal in India, but the illegal betting market on cricket has long been one of the largest in the world.
PayTM taken to task over illegal IPL betting
As an alternative to outright betting on the IPL, many Indian punters take to fantasy sports sites which effectively allow gambling on cricket, albeit under a different name.
These sites have engaged in aggressive marketing ahead of the IPL which has had its fair share of corruption and match-fixing scandals.
Digital payments platform Paytm had recently launched a fantasy cricket tournament that involved cash bets and violated the Google Play Store’s policies, the Indian firm said in a statement.
“Today afternoon, we received communication from Google that they are suspending our app because they believe this to be a violation of their Play Store policies on gambling,” the company said.
“The Paytm Android app has thus been unlisted from Google’s Play Store and is temporarily unavailable to users for new downloads or updates,” it added.
Android users in India who already have the app downloaded can continue to use the service, but new downloads have been blocked.
Google said it would not permit any apps in its store that facilitate sports betting or lead “consumers to external websites that allowed them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes”.
The tech giant did not mention Paytm by name in their statement.
A bane on cricket
Cricket as a whole has been plagued by so-called spot-fixing which sees players approached to perform simple seemingly innocuous actions during a match that allow punters to rake in serious winnings with the certainty that the intended outcome will present.
The IPL, which is being held in the United Arab Emirates behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, was hit by a spot-fixing scandal in 2013 which resulted in two teams (Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals) being banned for two years.
Digital payments platforms have experienced a surge in demand in India in recent months, with their usage doubling in 2020 from a year earlier due to coronavirus restrictions, according to consultancy firm Local Circles.
India’s digital payments market is dominated by Google Pay, followed closely by PhonePe, with Paytm ranking a distant third.