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UK Reacts to Facebook Online Gambling

By: Ryan Alders, Tuesday December 6th 2011
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Facebook is the largest and most popular of the social networking sites. Of late there have been reports that it is contemplating entering real money online gambling. This was given credence by Facebook hosting a dinner in London last week for a group of industry people. There has been an ensuing flurry of negative reaction in the United Kingdom. The newspaper The Daily Mail has collated several such reactions and published them in an article. The Daily Mail article points out that there are more than 3 million Facebook users in the UK who are between 13 and 17 years in age. A further million users are estimated to be under 13 but pretending to be older. As a result there is real danger of underage persons getting involved with real money online gambling if it comes to Facebook.

One of the persons that the newspaper spoke to was Dr Robert Lefever, founding director of the Promis Recovery Centre which treats online gambling addicts. He was the opinion that most young people think that if it is on Facebook then it is acceptable. Therefore they will have no hesitation in trying it. Lauri Moyle, of Christian Action Research Education (CARE), said that there was a link between "the age when people start gambling and the likelihood of developing a difficulty controlling their gambling". People who start gambling when they are not mature enough are more susceptible to problem gambling woes. Therefore giving an impression to children that gambling is normal is harmful. Professor Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, was even against children playing games of chance without money changing hands because it enabled them to learn the mechanics of gambling. "These games can be a gateway to more serious gambling," he said. Labour MP Louise Ellman has felt that gambling on Facebook could have a negative impact on the under aged and vulnerable.

In all fairness The Daily Mail approached Facebook for comment. The social networking giant preferred to refer to its media release that stated, "We are always in discussions with companies about lots of different ideas, but we don't comment on future plans or speculation."

Meanwhile a different storm is starting to brew in the United Kingdom. Referring to the Full Tilt Poker saga players have been asking what the responsibility of regulators is in such circumstances. The UK Gambling Commission has decided to make its position clear through a response to the question "Does the Gambling Commission guarantee my gambling winnings?" in the FAQs on its web site. The response states that the Gambling Commission vets the suitability of the operator to run an online gambling business. The licensee is required to provide information on how they would protect customers' funds in the event of insolvency. Players having monies owed by operators have recourse to law. But, "As with other commercial transactions such as buying consumer goods or entertainment, it is for consumers to assure themselves of the security of prizes offered or of funds deposited." So the simple and straight forward answer is "No".

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