Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Facebook Launches First Real-Money Gambling App

Online poker players, don’t get excited just yet. Don’t start running around the neighborhood yelling about how your “One time” has finally come in.

Ok, fine, get a little excited.

For the first time, Facebook is offering a game in which players can wager real money, not simply things like in-game currency or Facebook credits. The game is Bingo Friendzy, created by London-based Gamesys. It’s not poker, so that time has not come yet, but it is still a game in which users can gamble real money on the outcome. Right now, it is only available to residents of the United Kingdom who are over 18-years of age. In fact, Facebook users in other countries will not even be able to see the application.

Bingo Friendzy is the creation solely of Gamesys, maker of the popular Jackpotjoy Slots and Jackpotjoy Casino apps on Facebook, amongst others. Facebook is only the vehicle for offering the game to the public; the social networking behemoth was not involved in the development of the game.

A game like bingo makes sense as the starting point for real-money gaming on Facebook, largely because it is about as simple and casual a form of gambling as there is. After all, the stereotype of a bingo player is a senior citizen in a retirement village or a parishioner at the local church.

“Bingo is at the softer end of the gambling spectrum and online bingo often has chat forums alongside, so it’s an obvious match for Facebook,” Remote Gambling Association chief executive Clive Hawkswood told the Financial Times. “A lot of people have said why haven’t they done it before because there’s a difficulty in monetising what they have – this is one way of bringing in revenues.”

In the same article, Julien Codorniou, Facebook’s head of gaming for Europe, Middle East and Africa, added, “Gambling is very popular and well regulated in the UK . . . for millions of bingo users it’s already a social experience [so] it makes sense [for us] to offer that as well.”

A number of protections for users will be in place on Bingo Friendzy. According to TechCrunch, users will be required to verify their identities to prove that they are of age and located in the United Kingdom. 

Facebook also has what is called “age-gating” technology which prevents underage Facebook users from seeing the Bingo Friendzy activity of their friends. Thus, even if, say, a 30-year old Facebook user broadcasts every single game-related achievement to all his friends, none of his Bingo Friendzy activity will be visible to his 16-year old cousin.

A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch, “Facebook is a place that allows people to connect and share. 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.”

Should this venture succeed, it could open the door to further real-money gaming on Facebook. In July, social gaming giant Zynga opened a tender for real-money poker with developers such as Microgaming, GTECH G2, Playtech, and Intralot. Zynga’s current play-money offering, Zynga Poker, is one of the most popular games on Facebook, drawing well over 100,000 play-money users per day, according to


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