Scientific Games Blasted for UK Facebook Casino Apps
Scientific Games’ UK Facebook casino apps are facing a wave of criticism from British Facebook users. The casino apps lack age controls, so underage players can bet for real money. The UK is one of the few regions where Facebook casino apps allow real money play.
Youth gambling is not a new issue in the UK, but it seems that it is now more prevalent than ever. A study last year showed that the UK’s college students are facing increasing occurrences of problem gambling. Many commentators on the research believed problem gambling began before UK students reach the college level.
Scientific Games, the company at the heart of the UK Facebook story, is no stranger to controversy in the United Kingdom.
Scientific Games FOBTs
Scientific Games is one of the leading companies responsible for thousands of the UK’s fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT). Fixed-odds betting terminals are found in thousands of betting shops throughout the British Isles. Many consider them to be a particularly dangerous form of gambling, because of a variety of tragic stories told in the UK media about gambling addicts.
Scientific Games, best known for organizing the Powerball and Mega Millions multi-state lotteries in the United States, provides FOBTs to Ladbrokes. In the land-based and online casino industry, Scientific Games owns slot machine manufacturers like Bally Slots, Barcrest, and WMS Gaming.
Casino Apps with Cute Kittens
Now, Scientific Games has created gambling-style apps on Facebook without age checks. A lot of them being clearly geared towards young kids displaying graphics like the Flintstones — or depictions of cute, cartoon-style kittens. This is prompted allegations that the UK youth are at risk of developing habits that could lead to addiction at an early age.
One industry watchdog has warned that it is affecting more than 60,000 children. Experts have said that real-life gambling look-a-like games are the “number one risk factor” for youth in the UK and could lead addiction tendencies later on in life.
Scientific Games Social Gaming Apps
For some time, Scientific Games has provided social game apps for Facebook. Though many are geared towards adults, a new wave of games has begun to offer several games appealing to children. Some apps features beloved characters, such as The Flintstones and Rapunzel. Another is OMG! Kittens, featuring pictures of little kittens on the game clearly targeting the younger population.
Scientific Games even came out with a holiday version of a game called “Toys for Tots”, a Christmas toy program for underprivileged children, but now turned into a slogan for Jackpot Party Casino Slots.
Tom Watson Decries Facebook Casino Apps for Kids
Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has recently taken on the issue and developed a party review of the gambling policy. Tom Watson said, “It is deeply worrying that games designed to get children in the habit of gambling are being marketed and played online. The company that makes these products is cynically targeting young people, some of whom are at risk of developing gambling addictions later in life.”
Watson has urged Facebook to investigate the youth targeted games and to consider removing them completely from the site.
UK Gambling Commission Investigates
The Gambling Commission has also brought the issue to the surface, reporting the risks that gambling-style social games put on young people. In a recent report by the commission, regulators mentioned that children who have had access to social games were more susceptible to betting real money on adult products. Currently, 25,000 UK underage children are considered problem gamblers.
The UK Gambling Commission said in the report, “Among young people who have ever played online gambling-style games, a quarter had spent their own money on any gambling activity in the past week, significantly higher than the average of 12% among all 11- to 16-year-olds.”
The regulator also pointed out that children are not the only ones being affected negatively by gambling. Problem gambling is prevalent in the UK with adults as well, with over 2 million people considered to be problem gamblers or “at risk” of gambling addiction.
Jackpot Party Casino Slots Disclaimer
Scientific Games points out a disclaimer deep in the many of their gaming app’s terms of service. The disclaimer states the games are geared towards those over the age of 21, yet there is no true age verification requirement.
In the game Jackpot Party Casino Slots, players can buy coins easily by simply supplying a mobile number. The cost would then be added to a monthly contract, so underage players could gamble by placing their buy-in on their parents’ cellphone bill.
Those who sign up are reminded to play with daily emails, which offer the kinds of bonuses and promotions common to the real money online casino industry. If you “win”, you could be offered to “share free coins with your friends, so they can win too!”
Not Considered Gambling
Although a lot of these Facebook apps are not considered gambling from a legal standpoint, though they give the same thrill as real money casino games, which experts say is what most addicts look for.
For example, the Jackpot Party Casino Slots app on Facebook is not technically a gambling product. Money is not won or lost on games. Instead, users invest money to buy “coins” to play with. These games portray the same look and style of casino style games.
Experts Discuss UK Facebook Gaming Apps
This is not a new issue. Just weeks before the discovery of the company offering casino-style games via Facebook, many online gaming firms were instructed to clean up their sites as well. They were advertising very similar looking games that also seemed to be more geared towards kids by featuring cartoon characters.
The Gambling Commission’s executive director, Tim Miller, said in a press release, “In regulating gambling, we actively seek views and evidence about the risks children face so we can improve protections, and we think the social gaming industry should do the same, listening to the concerns of parents and others.”
Mark Griffith, a professor of behavioral addiction at Nottingham Trent University, says that social games were the “number one risk factor” for children becoming problem gamblers.
Griffith told the Daily News, “What games like these do is behaviorally and socially condition children from an early age to be into gambling. The thing about social networking games is that in the end you never lose. They set up unrealistic expectations of what gambling involves. If you win all that virtual money, you might think that if you’d been playing with real money you would have won too.”
Scientific Games Company Profile
Scientific Games’ headquarters is in Las Vegas. The company is one of the largest providers of fixed-odds betting terminals – the controversial machines which are said by many to be highly addictive and are currently the topic of significant controversy. Users of the machines lost a minimum of £1,000 in just one sitting on more than 233,071 occasions last year alone.
On top of British FOBTs, Scientific Games also makes online gambling software for several UK firms. William Hill, Betfred, and Paddy Power Betfair to name a few. On its own website, Scientific Games has prized themselves on having “unquestionable credentials as a globally responsible business”.