New Facebook Game Raises Underage Gambling Concerns

Recently Facebook launched its first real money gambling app. Bingo Friendzy offers players online bingo games and slots. The game was launched in the UK which has a well regulated and monitored online gaming industry and market. Not everyone is happy with Facebook’s latest business decision. Some groups contend that Facebook games are ‘setting children up as gamblers.’ The groups say that Facebook could turn children into future problem gamblers by allowing them to play Las Vegas style casino games on the popular social networking site.

Many Facebook games allow players to use ‘virtual money’ to play gambling games on their home computers and mobile phones. Facebook members who must be over 13 can play a wide variety of games associated with gambling such as roulette, slot machines and card games. Some so called ‘experts’ believe that the games could lead children to become habitual gamers or “problem” gamblers. They say that the games will lead children to believe that gambling is harmless fun and could make betting with real money seem more acceptable.

Dr Carolyn Downs, of the University of Salford, told reporters that her 13 year old daughter was upset over losing virtual money playing a game called ‘Fluff Friends.’ Downs told reporters “It’s well-established that the younger the children start gambling, the more likely it is they will become habitual gamblers and also problem gamblers. It’s a long-term, life-long risk. What we’re doing is setting up these kids to be problem gamblers as they go through life.” A spokeswoman for GamCare which helps problem gamblers said her organization wants the UK Gambling Commission to research and investigate social gaming.

Mandy Barrie, GamCare’s policy and development director, told reporters “This is a really rapidly-moving area. We need to think through very carefully any risks that it presents particularly for young people. There is a link between early exposure to gambling and developing a problem in adulthood.” A Facebook spokesman countered and said ‘In addition to complying with local law, all applications on Facebook are required to operate within the bounds of our developer guidelines.’ In the UK the legal age for gambling is 18. Facebook users must certify that they are 13 years old. Currently Facebook has over 3 million users under 17 years old.

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