Monday July 16 2012 : SOCIAL GAMING CRITICISED
 
Facebook is allegedly ‘creating a generation of gambling addicts because of site's Las Vegas style games'
 
Problem gambling experts told the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper over the weekend that they were concerned about the potential for social gaming sites like Facebook to create larger numbers of young problem gamblers.
 
Referencing "an explosion of Las Vegas-style casino games" on the social networking site, experts warned that the games encourage teenagers to think gambling is harmless fun, noting that there are now hundreds of virtual slot machine and poker games on Facebook, including Jackpotjoy, Slotomania and DoubleDownCasino, where youngsters can buy and use virtual coins to gamble.
 
The newspaper claims that Facebook has three million UK users aged between 13, the lower age limit for registration, and 17, with a further one million estimated to be under 13 and pretending to be older.
 
Dr Carolyn Downs, of the University of Salford, has personal experience of the danger; she was alerted when her 13-year-old daughter became upset at losing virtual money on the game Fluff Friends.
 
She told the Daily Mail: ‘It’s well-established that the younger the children start gambling, the more likely it is they will become habitual gamblers and also problem gamblers. It’s a long-term, life-long risk. What we’re doing is setting up these kids to be problem gamblers as they go through life.’
 
The newspaper reports that Facebook takes around a 30 percent cut of all virtual credits sold. Real money gambling is said to be a major future strategy for the networking site as it looks to generate new revenue streams. The company made a profit of GBP 640 million from its revenue of GBP 2.4 billion in 2011 with the bulk of that profit – 82 percent – generated by targeted advertising.
 
However its income would increase significantly if it awarded gaming licences to providers such as Jackpotjoy, which claims 1.7million users for its virtual slot games.
 
The Mail reports that Facebook execs have met with around 20 gaming companies – including 888 which claims 650,000 monthly users for its Bingo Island game – over the possibility of gaming licences, and says that the British firm Betable is already in talks with US game developers about providing real money gambling on popular Facebook games such as FarmVille.
 
Meanwhile, the problem gambling charity GamCare wants the UK Gambling Commission to investigate social gaming.
 
Policy and development director Mandy Barrie said: "This is a really rapidly-moving area. We need to think through very carefully any risks that  it presents particularly for young people. There is a link between early exposure to gambling and developing a problem in adulthood."
 
The Gambling Commission is ‘monitoring developments’ with regard to virtual gaming which it believes to be ‘at the perimeter of current legalization’.