Apple was hosting an online casino app disguised as a game for kids on the App Store
Apple claims to have a rather strict review process for apps before they go live on the App Store, but sometimes, like in this case, some apps manage to sneak through. Jungle Runner 2K21 might look like a children’s game, but it is actually an online casino.
Apps that want to go live on the Apple App Store need to clear a rather strict review process, but it looks like a scam app, of sorts, has managed to slip through. And this is allegedly not the first time this has happened, Apple has been criticised in the past for hosting scam apps on the App Store. The latest on that list is the Jungle Runner 2K21. Jungle Runner 2K21 appears to be a platformer game for children who are four or older but is, in fact, an online casino.
This @AppStore app pretends to be a silly platformer game for children 4+, but if I set my VPN to Turkey and relaunch it becomes an online casino that doesn't even use Apple's IAP.— Kosta Eleftheriou (@keleftheriou) April 15, 2021
This was discovered by a well-known app developer, Kosta Eleftheriou, who shared his findings on Twitter. And since then, Jungle Runner 2K21 has been removed from the App Store. Eleftheriou, who has created the Apple Watch keyboard app FlickType, discovered an online casino app was moonlighting as a Jungle Runner 2K21 on the App Store - the icon and the description of Jungle Runner 2K21 falls in line with being a game for kids. However, if you open the app with a VPN, Eleftheriou opened it with one connected to Turkey, this app opens as an online casino.
Eleftheriou noted that the app does not use Apple's in-app purchases (IAP) and instead accepts payments directly through the app via Visa, Mastercard, Papara, and other cryptocurrencies. Through a series of tweets, Eleftheriou has pointed out that the app was active on the App Store for a few months and there are reviews of the app where people have written that they've paid large amounts of money to get a bonus but have not gotten the payout.
The developer of Jungle Runner 2K21, Colin Malachi, also has another app called Magical Forest - Puzzle which is also a gambling app, as The Verge has reported. Also, as per another report, Malachi is showing the casino websites in a Web View through the game and is not actually running online casinos. However, the developer does collect bonuses when people sign up on these online casinos using his embedded affiliate code. The Jungle Runner 2K21 shows different local casinos when you check it from other countries or when you use a VPN connected to that country.
Also, this is not the first time Eleftheriou has spotted a scam app on the App Store. Earlier this year, he spotted an app by another developer named Dragon Game Studio that was a scam. This app was marked by its highly positive ratings and immensely negative reviews. At that point when it was discovered, Apple told The Verge that it has “stringent rules against apps and developers who attempt to cheat the system” and stated that in 2020, over 500,000 developer accounts were terminated for fraud and over 60 million user reviews considered spam were removed from the App Store.
Eleftheriou has also spotted several keyboard apps that were using fake reviews and fake ratings to gain popularity and asking for money for a subscription without any explanation. All these apps have since been removed from the App Store.
Apple does allow casino games on the App Store that involve real money as long as they have the “necessary licensing and permissions in the locations where the App is used”. These apps also need to be “geo-restricted to those locations and must be free on the App Store”. Apple has also said that they will reject apps for any content or behaviour that they think is out of line. An online casino app moonlighting as a kid's game is definitely out of line.
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