Facebook betting on racing and football


Facebook will offer real money betting on horse racing and football matches in a major expansion of its gambling operations.

The social networking site was criticised last year for launching a range of Las Vegas-style casino games with the promise of jackpots worth tens of thousands of pounds.

It already offers virtual slot machines for children as young as 13 – with real money games advertised as soon as users hit their 18th birthday.

Now it will begin offering sports betting under a lucrative deal with online bookmaker Paddy Power, which was announced last night.

The game, called Paddy Power In-Play!, will be rolled out in the coming days.

It will only be available in the UK, where gaming laws are more relaxed than in the US.

Both companies claim they have rigorous safeguards to prevent minors from accessing the game, and Facebook insists adverts for the game cannot be viewed by anyone under 18.

But critics and campaign groups have raised concerns that children could still access the online gambling pages, either by lying about their age or using a parent’s credit card.

Research by the Gambling Commission in 2008 found that almost one million children had ‘gambling problems’, and said that a ‘high proportion of children and young people gambled’.

On its website, campaign group Stop Children Gambling warns: ‘High Street Bookmakers have the same 18 year age limit but have the benefit of at least being able to determine whether the intended gambler at least looks old enough. This is not the case on the internet.’

Research group Ipsos MORI said that, when it conducted a poll in 2011, one in four children aged 11-15 had gambled during the previous week.

Facebook has three million UK users aged between 13 and 17. But a further one million are thought to be under 13 and pretending to be older.

Any of these could already be playing the ‘free’ slot and bingo games – which critics say form gambling habits because they simulate the thrill of hitting the jackpot.

‘Research has shown again and again that one of the biggest factors in developing problem gambling is playing free games online first,’ said Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, at the time Facebook launched its first real money casino game last December.

Paddy Power last night said the game will ‘enable customers to bet on a wide variety of sporting events through Facebook, while also giving them visibility of, and the opportunity to engage with, other users’.

Peter O’Donovan, managing director of Paddy Power Online said: ‘The launch of the first real money sports betting product on Facebook is testament to Paddy Power’s e-commerce and technology capabilities.

‘We are pleased to partner with Facebook on this pioneering work.’

Will Collins, head of social casino partnerships at Facebook, said: ‘Given the popularity of sports betting in the UK, we’re delighted to be welcoming Paddy Power onto the Facebook gaming platform with an innovative gaming experience.’

Online betting in Britain is now a business worth more than £2billion, it is estimated.

A Facebook spokesman said: ‘Online betting is a popular and well-regulated pastime in the UK. Our carefully chosen partners work within stringent regulatory guidelines to ensure their products and services are used safely and responsibly by adults. These products will be invisible and inaccessible to people aged under 18 on Facebook.’

extract MailOnline


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