In 2012, Facebook was criticised for launching a range of casino-style games with jackpots offering players the opportunity to win tens of thousands of pounds, and it also offers virtual slots that are accessible by children aged 13 and over, who are then subjected to advertisements for real-money games when they reach the age of 18. Nearer the end of July 2013, Paddy Power In-Play! will start to be rolled out, although it will only be available to UK users.
Both Facebook’s and Paddy Power’s management say there are sufficiently strict safeguards in place to prevent minors from accessing application, and Facebook says that adverts for the game will not be displayed to anyone under the age of 18. However, there are many campaign groups and critics who remain unconvinced of these alleged security and safety levels, saying that minors could still access the Paddy Power Bingo parent company’s new sports betting application by using a parent’s credit card or lying about their age.
According to a 2008 study carried out by the UK’s Gambling Commission, nearly one million children aged under 18 have ‘gambling problems,’ while the Stop Children Gambling campaign group’s website says that unlike High Street bookies who are able to visually determine if a gambler looks of legal age, on the internet, this is not the case. There was also a poll conducted by MORI in 2011 which showed that 25% of children aged between 11 and 15 had gambled during the previous week. According to Facebook’s statistics, there are three million UK users in the 13-17 age group; however, it is thought that an additional one million are aged under 13 but are pretending to be older. This latter category is the one that critics are most concerned about, but anyone in this age range could be accessing free-play bingo and slot games, which industry critics say are a huge problem in creating problem gamblers due to the ‘jackpot’ thrill they create.
What do our readers think about real-money sports betting applications being made available on Facebook? Do you think they should only be accessible to users who ‘opt-in’ to receive access to gambling information, or do you think that they should be banned altogether?