Facebook features social betting games without age checks
An investigation by the Guardian has found that the company that creates thousands of the UK’s fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) offers gambling apps via Facebook that do not require any age verification checks.
Scientific Games is a US based firm that has supplied FOBTs to a number of UK bookmakers. The company also creates so-called social games, which are available as apps on Facebook. Many of the games feature cartoon characters or cartoon style graphics that appeal predominantly to children.
The apps would likely not fall under the definition of traditional gambling because money is not won or lost by playing the game. Rather, users are invited to buy coins required to play the game via their mobile phone, with the cost added to a user’s monthly contract. Experts have termed these type of games social gaming and there is already pressure being applied on the industry by regulators to act.
Those who sign up to play the apps are then often bombarded with multiple email reminders a day, along with bonuses and other perks of regular play. While the terms and conditions often stated the games were aimed at those over the age of 21, most of the apps also employed no age verification checks. This means that children of any age could easily play the games.
Social gaming key gambling risk among children
A report published in late December by the UK Gambling Commission cited social gaming, among other things, to be a key concern in underage gambling. The findings of the report suggested that those children who played social betting games were more likely to bet real money on adult gambling games or products.
The report also found that there could be up to 25,000 children in the UK between the ages of 11 and 16 who are problem gamblers.
Speaking about the issue, Tim Miller, executive director of the Gambling Commission, commented:
In regulating gambling, we actively seek views and evidence about the risks children face so we can improve protections, and we think the social gaming industry should do the same, listening to the concerns of parents and others.– Tim Miller, Gambling Commission Executive Director
These apps also exploit another factor that experts have warned lures children to gambling. The cartoon characters and graphics used have already been condemned by regulators as a pre-conceived method that will attract a younger demographic to play the games.