Online gambling firm 888 Holdings has inked a deal with Facebook to offer real money gambling on the world’s largest social network platform, becoming the second company to do so.
The venture will be operated by 888 subsidiary Mytopia and will start with games such as bingo, slots, and casino games offered only to residents of the United Kingdom. The first real money product will be a conversion of 888’s current free-to-play game, Bingo Island, with a casino and slots product coming in the first quarter of 2013. Poker may be a possibility down the road, but according to Social Casino Intelligence, it would not be until later next year.
888 COO Itai Frieberger commented on the agreement in a press release:
888 has long recognised the potential for social gaming. Our Facebook freemium (play for fun) offerings have found a significant audience, and we are very excited by the opportunity that real money gaming on Facebook provides. We are working closely with Facebook on this launch, ensuring we introduce the best of both worlds of real money and social gaming.
Bingo Island currently sees about 630,000 active players per month, though of course not all of those are in the UK.
Said Facebook Head of Games Partnerships in Europe Julien Codorniou, “Facebook is a great platform for playing games with your friends and we are really pleased to be working with 888, who have a strong reputation on both the quality and safety of their games.”
In August, Bingo Friendzy became the first real money gambling offering on Facebook. London-based gaming firm Gamesys created Bingo Friendzy; Facebook only hosts the game and was not involved in its development at all.
“Bingo is at the softer end of the gambling spectrum and online bingo often has chat forums alongside, so it’s an obvious match for Facebook,” Remote Gambling Association chief executive Clive Hawkswood told the Financial Times when the Gamesys deal was announced this summer. “A lot of people have said why haven’t they done it before because there’s a difficulty in monetising what they have – this is one way of bringing in revenues.”
Julien Codorniou also added, “Gambling is very popular and well regulated in the UK . . . for millions of bingo users it’s already a social experience [so] it makes sense [for us] to offer that as well.”
Facebook is implementing various technologies for player protection for Bingo Friendzy, so one would assume that the same things would be in place for the 888 offering. For Bingo Friendzy, users are required to verify their age (18 or over) and that they are located in the United Kingdom. Additionally, Facebook is using “age-gating” technology in which underage Facebook users are unable to see their friends’ gambling activity. Thus, if someone shares game statuses or achievements with his friends, only those over 18 can see anything related to real money gambling.
“Facebook is a place that allows people to connect and share. Real money gaming is a popular and well-regulated activity in the UK and we are allowing a partner to offer their games to adult users on the Facebook platform in a safe and controlled manner,” said a Facebook spokesperson after the Gamesys announcement.