Last August the social networking site Facebook launched real money games in the UK. Facebook chose the UK for the release because of the country’s mature and highly regulated online gaming market. The UK is home to several major online bingo sites and casinos and sites licensed in the UK are regulated and taxed. Not everyone is happy with Facebook’s move. Some critics say that Facebook’s games will create “tomorrow’s generation of problem gamblers.” Some ‘experts’ have warned that the Facebook games could cause “the floodgates to open” as more online gambling companies use social networking sites.
Players will be able to bet up to £500 using credit and debit cards. Gaming companies are promising jackpots worth tens of thousands of pounds. The games will only be available in the UK where gambling laws are more liberal than in the US. Facebook and 888 Holdings say they have safeguards in place to prevent underage gambling. Facebook will check credit card details against the player’s Facebook profile and the UK electoral register. Critics say there is nothing in place to prevent minors from using their parent’s Facebook accounts and credit card details stored on the computer. Facebook users as young as 13 can play virtual slot games to win credits that do not have any monetary value.
Some experts claim that as soon as they turn 18 Facebook users will be inundated with advertisements for gambling sites and games. In the UK Facebook has three million users 13 to 17 years old. One million are thought to be under 13 and pretending to be older. Critics say that the ability to play free games could create gambling habits because some games simulate the thrill of winning a jackpot. Last August 888 launched its real money online bingo games and has added casino games since then.
Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University said “You win virtually every time you play one of the free games. Research has shown again and again that one of the biggest factors in developing problem gambling is playing free games online first. These children and teenagers today are the problem gamblers of tomorrow.” Itai Frieberger, chief operating officer of 888, disagreed and stated “Our Facebook play for fun offerings have found a significant audience, and we are very excited by the opportunity real money gaming on Facebook provides.”
A Facebook spokesman said that Bingo Friendzy players must pass “strict account acceptance controls verifying their identity, and that they are over 18 and located in the UK.” He also said that gambling will not be promoted on Facebook to users under 18. So far things have gone well without incident.