Facebook’s decision to roll out real money games has generated a lot of controversy. Critics have accused Facebook of creating ‘tomorrow’s generation of problem gamblers.’ Recently Facebook partnered with online gaming company 888 and the social networking giant will offer users Las Vegas style slots along with roulette, blackjack and other casino games. In August Facebook offered its first real money games in the UK. Facebook chose the UK for the launch because the country has a mature and regulated internet gambling sector.
Facebook gamblers will be able to wager up to £500 using a credit or debit card. Some jackpots amount to tens of thousands of dollars. The new games will only be available in the US. British gambling laws are more liberal and relaxed that those in the United States. Facebook and 888 said they have safeguards in place to prevent any underage gambling. Safeguards include checking the credit card details against the user’s Facebook profile. The electoral register will also be checked. Critics say that there is nothing to stop children from logging on using their parent’s accounts and using credit card details stored in the computer.
Facebook users as young as 13 have access to virtual slot machines. They can only earn credits that have no monetary value. Critics say that when Facebook users turn 18 they will be bombarded with advertisements for real money gambling games. Critics say that free slot and bingo games form gambling habits because the games simulate the thrill of hitting the jackpot. Over a million people have signed up to play 888’s free bingo game, Bingo Island. Players have to pay for credits but cannot win any real money. Recently 888 rolled out its real money version of bingo on Facebook. The gaming company said it plans to offer more real money games in the near future.
Critics fear that many people will be attracted to the new games to try and win money back. They say that free games offer players unrealistic odds in their favor. Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University stated “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.” Griffith also warned that Facebook’s move could “open the floodgates” as gambling companies enter the social media sector in search of huge profits.