It was, I suppose, only a matter of time before real cash gambling hit Facebook. How can a company…one struggling to live up to IPO expectations at that…ignore such a lucrative area? The answer is they can’t and so here it is in the form of Bingo Friendzy.
You might have thought it would be Facebook gaming giant Zynga that would be first past the post with this but it’s actually London-based online gambling operator Gamesys, which operates jackpotjoy.com, Sun Bingo and Heart Bingo in the UK. For this reason, the Bingo Friendzy app will only be viewable and playable in the UK.
It’s no surprise that it’s the UK and not the US or other market that is seeing real cash gambling on Facebook first. The gambling industry in the UK is a mature one, smoothly (if slightly outdatedly) regulated and, more importantly for Facebook, it’s popular. Massively popular. As a Facebook spokeswoman told the BBC:
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.
To do this in the US would be hugely complicated, as the law currently forbids banks and others offering payment processing services to betting services targeted at US citizens. However, Zynga is known to be working on real cash gaming apps of its own and they are unlikely to want to miss out on the potentially huge American market when they do.
Nor will Facebook. They take 30% of most transactions on their network and that amounts to millions, if not billions of potential revenue from real cash gaming. It hasn’t been confirmed if it’s the same with the Gamesys app, but either way Facebook stands to make a lot of money out of this, boosting investor confidence in the long term profitability of the social networking giant. Or so they hope.
The move will inevitably lead to questions about gambling addiction, kids and other vulnerable types being exposed to gambling and a whole lot more (privacy too, most likely). Indeed, there’s a Facebook Group already created calling for the app to be banned. But both Facebook and Gamesys were quick to quell these concerns.
Facebook will use age-gating technology to ensure over-18s only have access, while Gamesys are providing self help tools and the ability to set spending limits to users.
The question is, will it be a success? Having gambled a bit myself I have to say yes, it will be. However, Bingo Friendzy will have at least one hurdle to overcome. Gambling is not a social activity. Indeed, a lot of gamblers value their privacy, that’s why online gambling has been such a success in the UK. When you add a social – public, in other words – element to it, there’s going to be some serious thinking done by gamblers. Even bingo players, which has traditionally been a social activity – but that’s in bingo halls, not online – will think twice.
This is probably a small hurdle though. It may be a bigger one should real cash casino games come to Facebook. You’re not going to want your friends and family to know you just blew an entire month’s wages playing roulette but losing a tenner on a bingo card is no big deal.
Should it prove to be a success you can expect hundreds of apps to appear, first from Zynga then by other game app developers. The Asian market is ripe for this sort of thing too, and will help Facebook gain a stronger toehold there, as well as generate that much needed revenue.
All in all, this is a logical step for the company, though how well it will go down with users remains to be seen. As ever, Zuckerberg is unlikely to care and what he touches does generally turn to gold.
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