Apple approved another secret gambling den, masquerading as a puzzle game

This morning, I wrote how Apple’s $64 billion-a-year App Store isn’t catching incredibly obvious multimillion-dollar scams because the company isn’t even bothering to audit its most profitable apps for fraud, and how app developer Kosta Eleftheriou is showing the company how it’s done.

But that’s not the only kind of scam Eleftheriou has been uncovering in Apple’s App Store — he has also discovered that Apple’s review teams have been approving games that transform into secret gambling dens when you access them from certain countries (or via VPN). We wrote about two of them last Thursday as if they were an isolated incident, but he’s now found at least two more, suggesting this may be a trend — including a match-three puzzle game dubbed Lucky Stars that turns into a casino if you open it in Russia, and a game called Vegas Pirates that does the same.

In some ways, they’re even more egregious examples: while it might be more shocking that a kids’ monkey-collecting-bananas game would transform into a gambling den, these new apps would seem to invite extra scrutiny with their gambling-oriented visuals and the fact they pretended a Russian news organization was their “developer website.”

They’re both gone now.

If you’re looking for shock value, Eleftheriou also spotted this unrelated app the other day:

Apple is testifying before Congress today — and in an incredibly high-profile court case against Epic Games next month — about how its App Store protects users, justifies the company’s traditional 30-percent cut (reportedly $64 billion last year alone), and shouldn’t be broken up. These kinds of discoveries are giving the company’s critics a lot of ammo.

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