Bingo Friendzy, a new application developed by Gamesys, the UK-based online gambling firm was introduced yesterday morning on Facebook. It lets players stake cash amount in 90 bingo as well as slot machine games. It has though, prompted some anger from the country’s Christian groups, many of whom called on the Authority of Advertising Standards to act. The app is being marketed with catchy cartoon graphics that feature, apparently compared to those on the highly popular children’s social networking platform, Moshi Monsters.
Facebook has allowed probably the first real gambling application even as it comes under intense pressure to boost its revenues. Since its IPO, it has reported a wide loss and its share price has nearly halved amidst concerns about its effectiveness as a powerful advertising medium. Social gaming and probably real money gambling are being seen as areas for Facebook to ensure substantial increase in revenue. The social site will take 30% of revenues generated from Bingo Friendzy. In fact, a host of similar gambling apps are likely to be unveiled in the near future.
Only those members of Facebook who have mentioned their age as over 18 years can access it, but the site does not verify the personal information recorded. It is being pointed out that children often bypass the stipulated minimum age limit for having a Facebook profile by providing false information. Whilst the activists acknowledge that Gamesys has put in place the age-verification system, they are worried this may prompt young members only to find ways to access the site once they come across constant wall updates that promote online gambling.
Concerns in this regard have been expressed by Christian groups like the Mother’s Union. Reg Bailey, its chief executive, had prepared a report on child protection on the Web for the Prime Minister. Appeal of the fluffy animal imagery is so designed as to attract a young audience, a spokesman for the group said, according to whom, Facebook has more than a million under-age users, adding, “We to urge parents to take up ongoing conversations with the children about responsible internet usage.”
Facebook assured that Bingo Friendzy players are going to be subjected to ‘strict account acceptance controls’ to verify their identity, and the fact that they’re over 18 years of age and based in the UK. Also, the app won’t be promoted to members registered as under 18, the company stated. However, skeptics are not satisfied. Expressing the prevailing resentment, the Methodist Church director of communications, Toby Scott, quipped that it is hard to see how such age restrictions on games on these social networks can be enforced reliably. He added,
“Gambling is age-restricted for a reason: children are excluded because they are vulnerable. It is especially concerning that Bingo Friendzy’s visual marketing is the kind that you see in children’s games, with bright colours and friendly characters. This appears to be a blatant breach of the ASA’s Gambling Advertising rules, which clearly state that marketing ‘should not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture’.”
Dispelling such notions, a Facebook spokesman stated that real money gaming is a well-regulated activity in Britain and we’re just letting a partner offer their games only to adult users on our platform in a controlled and safe manner.