Facebook’s Foray Into Real Money Gambling: What Does it Mean?

In five years or so, gambling analysts may well look back at August 7th, 2012 as a watershed moment for the industry. That is, of course, the date that the first real money gambling app for Facebook – Bingo & Slots Friendzy by Gamesys – began trialing for users in the UK.Some will argue, of course, that real money gambling has existed on the massive social platform for quite some time thanks to grey markets for things like Zynga Poker chips that are technically meant to be valueless. Regardless, the launch of an app where gambling for real money is explicitly permitted and encouraged is a horse of a very different color.What does it all mean? I surveyed the substantial amount of digital ink spilled on the topic in the week since B&SF became a hot topic and culled the basic conclusions drawn by others into one meta-post that seeks to provide a bit of context for Facebook’s first foray into online gambling.Is Gambling the Answer to Facebook’s IPO Blues?The general consensus seems to be … maybe.Dave Thier over at Forbes teases the question with his article “Real-Money Gambling — Could Facebook Build The Internet’s Biggest Casino?” but ultimately concludes that too much remains unknown for him to conclude that gambling can reverse the company’s stock slide:Meanwhile, an interesting post over at game development blog Gamasutra argues that Facebook won’t ever realize significant profits from gambling until they unveil an open platform for developers (as opposed to hand-picking partners like Gamesys):In addition to the revenue gambling could generate, at least one pundit thinks that – if handled correctly – gambling could reverse the engagement dip eating at Facebook’s bottom line. Of course, not everyone agrees, as the following quote from a Washington Times article illustrates:How many? Patricio Robles over at Econsultancy.com worries that the number could ultimately be much higher than Facebook thinks:Either Way, Gambling on Facebook is Going to be ControversialEven in the UK, a country where bingo (and gambling) enjoys widespread cultural acceptance and online gambling is regulated and pervasive, news of a Facebook app that would allow users to wager real money generated some backlash. A piece by Christopher Williams in the Telegraph summed up the concerns:A related article from Parmy Olson at Forbes – “Facebook Gambling App With Fluffy Creatures Definitely Not Aimed At Kids” – argues that Facebook and its partners can overcome such controversy with the right mix of technology and attention to detail:As for the age verification procedures in place, they’ll feel pretty familiar to anyone who has cashed out from an online poker site – read more in this breakdown from Techeye.net.Facebook Does Not Want to Become a Gambling Company, Just a PlatformBeing a gambling company is hard. Being a software company that sells access to a platform to gambling companies, that’s a little easier. From Slate:From InvestorPlace.com:Facebook Will Take Baby Steps With GamblingIt wasn’t random choice that led Facebook to the decision to debut real-money gambling in the UK market via a bingo app. The move was widely considered a smart first step toward larger, global gambling ambitions, designed to generate maximum return with minimal risk. As Reuters reported:Essentially, the UK is the perfect lab for Facebook to test real-money gambling apps (and to develop a track record, systems and processes that will make moving into other markets infinitely easier). Blowback should be minimal, interest should be high and if the company can’t make real-money gambling work in the UK market, it probably shouldn’t really bother in other major markets.… But This is Still the First Drop of a Tidal WaveWhile Facebook may be committed to taking it slow with real-money gambling, you can be sure that last week’s news shook up plans at more than a few companies in the same sphere as the social giant.As if to drive that point home, within days of the announcement game developer Big Fish revealed plans to offer real-money gambling via the Apple App Store and reports that Zynga is aggressively lobbying for online gambling regulation circulated widely.Neither was likely tied directly to the launch of Bingo Friendzy, but it’s difficult to believe that any business looking to make their money from online gambling wasn’t rethinking their plans and pacing after Facebook’s decision became public.BingoFriendzy In ActionVideo via Mashable.

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