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January 31, 2013 Print

FaceBOOKIE: Parents Beware …

by Chad Hills

Parents who allow their teens to have Facebook accounts may have more than pedophiles, predators, bullies and pornography to worry about. A very real concern is looming on the Facebook horizon: real-cash, online gambling.

Some parents may not realize that “free-play” gambling has been available on Facebook for several years. In my experience with gambling, this has the external appearance of “grooming” kids to be the next generation of gamblers.

Facebook hosts free-play casino-style games like: Texas Hold’Em Poker (Zynga Poker), Bingo Blitz, House of Fun (casino-like slots), Slotomania Slot Machines, DoubleDown Casino Slots & Poker, (Casino) Games by GSN, Caesars Casino, Zynga Slingo (bingo-slots) among other faux-gambling experiences.

The problem comes when real-money gambling suddenly appears in a formerly cash-free-gaming environment, and the line between gaming (no-cash play) and gambling (cash-for-play) becomes blurred.

In the United Kingdom, Facebook currently hosts online, real-money gambling. Could Canada or the U.S. be next?

The StarPhoenix/Vancouver Sun (Canada) interviewed several sources about this troubling Facebook trend toward becoming an online-gambling hub – or a “FaceBOOKIE”.

According to the article:

… “Everyone’s waiting to move into that market,” said Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor of the U.K.’s Nottingham Trent University. “Social media is where gambling is going now.”

… Griffiths said Zynga, an online game service accessible through Facebook and other social networking sites, accounted for 12 per cent of Facebook’s revenue in 2011. Advertising made up nearly all the rest.

[Zynga CEO said online gambling (real-cash) is a “natural fit” for Zynga games. Zynga also created the Facebook game, Mafia Wars, advertising, “Enlist friends to join your mob, and mastermind a criminal empire. It turns out, crime pays.”]

… Griffiths warned the looming explosion of “social gambling” games and sites carries potential pitfalls, particularly for children and problem gamblers. He pointed to games like Bingo Friendzy that bubble over with cartoonish visuals and characters resembling stuffed animals.

“[The site operators’] excuse is, ‘We want the adult to regress to a state of play like they had in childhood.’ To me, anyone who says that this kind of imagery isn’t roping in kids is being deceptive.”

A 2011 survey (England/Wales) found one in seven children between 11 and 16 had played free or practice gambling games within the past week, usually through Facebook.

… More traditional problem gamblers are also vulnerable, Griffiths said. Online gambling is accessible and seemingly anonymous.

Read the full article here …

Facebook claims, “Safety is an ongoing conversation among everyone who uses Facebook.”

Is it time for concerned parents to send Mark Zuckerberg’s organization your thoughts and feedback concerning the troubling trend toward real-cash gambling on Facebook?

FaceBOOKIE-2013

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