U.K.-Only Bingo Friendzy Marks Facebook’s Entry Into Real-Money Gambling Games

By David Cohen 

Facebook is throwing its chips into the real-money gambling pot, but only for its U.K. users, as London-based online gambling operator Gamesys rolled out Bingo Friendzy, which allows users 18 and over to compete for cash prizes.

BBC News reported that Gamesys is licensed and regulated by the government of Gibraltar, which is why it can offer Bingo Friendzy in the U.K., and the developer said players will be able to access self-help tools to reduce the risk of gambling addiction, including the ability to set spending limits.

While Facebook allowed the application to launch, the social network appeared to distance itself from Bingo Friendzy, with a spokeswoman for the social network stressing that the game is only available to U.K. users 18 and up and saying it was developed entirely by Gamesys, and not as part of a joint venture between the two companies. She added:

Real-money gaming is a popular and well-regulated activity in the U.K., and we are allowing a partner to offer its games to adult users on the Facebook platform in a safe and controlled manner.

There was no word on whether Facebook would distance itself from the 30 percent cut it currently receives on revenue from games and apps that use its platform, but leaving that sort of money on the table is probably not in the cards.

TechCrunch also pointed out that Facebook’s age-gating technology will ensure that Bingo Friendzy activity does not appear on the timelines of users under 18, adding that those users will not see ads for the game, nor will any users outside of the U.K.

Julien Codorniou, Facebook’s head of gaming for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, told Financial Times:

Gambling is very popular and well-regulated in the U.K. For millions of bingo users, it’s already a social experience, so it makes sense for us to offer that, as well.

Don’t expect similar games targeted toward Facebook users in the U.S., however, as the BBC pointed out that banks and other entities offering payment processing services to betting services are currently prohibited by law, and the social network’s platform policies state:

Games that are an app on Facebook or the mobile Web must use Facebook payments as their sole and exclusive payment method for all virtual goods and currencies made available to users within the game. All other payment options are prohibited within games that are on apps on Facebook or the mobile Web unless they go through Facebook payments rather than directly through that payment option. By “payment method,” we mean any method that allows a user to complete a transaction where the user receives virtual currency or virtual goods in a game that is an app on Facebook or the mobile Web in exchange for anything of value, including, without limitation, by exchanging monetary value for virtual currency or virtual goods, whether directly at the time of purchase or via any previous transaction such as the user’s earlier purchase of a prepaid gift card or electronic code. In-game rewards of virtual currency or virtual goods earned by users through game-play activity alone are exempt from this definition.

Readers: Do you think the potential revenue Facebook stands to gain from venturing into real-money gaming is enough to offset the negative implications?