Some of you may remember that back in August this year, we reported that a new Facebook application called Bingo Friendzy was causing a bit of a stir, and not necessarily in a positive way. Critics accused the application’s designers of tempting children to play, despite the game having an 18+ age restriction. This was due to the fact that it featured cartoon characters that are very similar to a popular children’s website called Moshi Monsters.
At the time, Mark Griffiths, who is a Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University had “extreme concerns” about the imagery used, and sided with the game’s other critics. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received two official complaints in October 2012, which stated that the ad was irresponsible as it was likely to appeal to children. Bingo Friendzy was the first bingo game to be approved by Facebook where people can win and lose real money, and many people believed that under-age players would be able to get around the 18+ restriction.
However, having assessed the complaints, the ASA decided not to uphold them, despite agreeing that the advert was likely to appeal to younger players due to the cartoon-style images. This is because Profitable Play Ltd (PP), who owns the application, have made the game (and any associated advertising) subject to age-gating, which means that they cannot be viewed by Facebook users unless they are residents of the UK and aged 18 or over. PP claim that they are actually targeting players in the 35-45 age bracket, and that the cartoon-style characters used are intended to make the game appear “fun and engaging.”
Industry observers have stated their surprise at the ruling due to the increasing amount of social gaming applications on sites like Facebook that they believe could encourage young players to start gambling. For the team behind Bingo Friendzy, however, it must come as a huge relief, as the app now has over 3,000 players, who are surely making them a substantial amount of money. The owners of Facebook are bound to be equally pleased, considering that much of their operating revenue now comes from games such as these.
We are interested to hear what our readers think about the verdict. Do you think that the Advertising Standards Authority should have upheld the complaints, and demanded that the game be taken down, or redesigned? Or, do you think that maybe parents should take more responsibility for checking what their children are looking for on the internet?