Bingo Friendzy is the first real cash gambling app to appear on Facebook. At the moment it is available only to UK members, likely because Facebook has huge penetration in the UK market – and US gaming laws are far stricter.
The app has 90 Ball Bingo games but, unlike existing gambling apps on Facebook, users can play and win (or more likely lose) proper money. Bingo Friendzy state that the game is only available to users who are aged 18 years old or over.
However, some might think that the game marketing looks very much like cartoon characters for kids, quite similar to Moshi Monsters in fact. Whilst UK gaming advert rules state that gambling ads should not be “of particular appeal to children or young persons”, the app is only available to over 18s so children will not be able to view any of the advertizing – assuming that parents don’t allow them into the same room whilst playing…
Problem Gamblers – Facebook intend to use ‘age-gating’ to make sure that children and ‘vulnerable people’ are unable to play the games but it remains unclear how exactly the assessment of ‘vulnerable people’ could work.
Although users will have access “to a number of self-help tools to limit their spending and exclude themselves from playing at anytime”, asking a vulnerable person to self-police themselves doesn’t exactly prevent them from playing. What is meant by a ‘vulnerable person’ anyway – presumably a problem gambler i.e. gambling addict?
According to the most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey in 2010 there are an estimated 450,000 ‘problem gamblers’ in the UK – 0.9% of the adult population, up from 0.6% in 2007. The report suggests that problem gambling prevalence rates observed in the UK were similar to rates observed in other European countries but lower than countries like the USA, Australia and South Africa.
A Facebook First
The BBC reports that Facebook said the decision to launch a real-cash gambling app in the UK had been motivated by “a mature and very well-regulated gambling market”.
Well-regulated it may be but most UK online gambling operations (including Bingo Friendzy) are actually regulated by the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner, not the UK Gambling Commission.
The app’s terms and conditions also make it clear that the operator (Profitable Play Limited) is registered in Gibraltar, not the UK.
It allows online gaming companies to avoid the UK’s 15% tax on gross betting profits.
In completely unrelated news…
Facebook shares are currently trading at around $20 – just over half of the $38 IPO launch price. Market capitalization has dropped from around $100bn to $45bn in less than 3 months.
Last quarter profits decreased and revenues per user are also dropping. In the absence of a more profitable way to monetize mobile ads, I guess taking a cut of gambling app revenue seems like a step forward.