Facebook's 'Real Money' Gambling Venture Faces Storm

Facebook is in the middle of a major turmoil at the moment. We previously reported that the social networking site is facing an investigation in Norway over its Facial Recognition feature. Now, a new report has stated that the company has been accused of promoting ‘gambling’ after it launched a bingo game that allows users to bet thousands to win jackpots in excess of £50,000 (nearly $78,000) in UK.

The new bingo game, Bingo Friendzy, states that the user will have to stake a minimum of £10 ($17) on the virtual bingo machine – the site’s first ‘real money’ game – which was launched on the social networking site only recently.

The new game will only be available in the UK, where gaming laws are, comparatively, more relaxed than the U.S. This game will be followed by a Las Vegas-style slot machine app created by the same gaming company.

The company has been accused of involving children in the ongoing gambling scenario, and, per a Daily Mail report, because Bingo Friendzy features cartoon characters similar to those on the popular children’s Internet hit Moshi Monsters, fresh concerns have been raised that youngsters will be encouraged to play. The experts, in the past, had already warned about the dangers of social gaming on Facebook, which is accessed by almost two out of three Internet-users in the UK.

However, both Facebook and gambling giant Gamesys, operators of the Bingo Friendzy app, insist that its settings prevent anyone under the age of 18 from accessing the real money games (from which Facebook takes a share of the profits). Eighteen is the legal age for gambling in the UK.

“But children regularly bypass the minimum age limit to have a Facebook profile simply by giving false information. At present the website is under growing pressure to increase its revenues. The company was valued at £67billion for its stock market flotation in May but doubts over its money-making potential saw £18.2billion vanish from its value in two weeks,” the Daily Mail report states.

According to Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, “It is through [virtual] gambling that children are introduced to the principles and excitement of gambling.”

“I had extreme concerns about the graphics and imagery. The whole thing about gambling is that it should not appeal to children or adolescents in any way. How that squares with the idea of not promoting gambling for children and adolescents, I’ve no idea at all,” he added. “They’re effectively a front for a gambling operator.”

A Facebook spokesman averred: “Real money gaming is a popular and well-regulated activity in the UK and we are allowing a partner to offer their games to adult users on the Facebook platform in a safe and controlled manner.”

More real money gambling sites are expected to be launched on the site within months.

Facebook is also facing the Aussie heat at the moment with Broadband Minister Senator Stephen Conroy demanding Facebook shutdown a fan page dedicated to stereotyping indigenous Australians as alcoholics.

Senator Conroy said that Facebook's excuse that it can't take down the page on grounds that it would be classed as humor and protected in the U.S. was inadequate.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Helen Szoke said the page, which targeted Aborigines, could be a breach of the Act and earlier called on the social network's operator to take the page down.

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