Facebook is allowing real-money gambling on its site for the first time – but critics warn that children may be lured in to the activity.
Bingo and Slots Friendzy features colourful fluffy characters and currently offers one jackpot in excess of £100,000.
Although Gamesys, which developed the game, claims it will not be visible to under 18s, concerns remain that the game may be appealing to children.
Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University, said it is through virtual gambling that “children are introduced to the principles and excitement of gambling”.
He visited the website and commented: “I had extreme concerns about the graphics and imagery.”
Prof Griffiths said he had “no idea at all” how the Facebook game “squares with the idea of not promoting gambling for children and adolescents”.
The Mothers’ Union voiced its opposition to the game, noting that “the site is clearly designed to appeal to a young audience.”
It added: “Whilst we acknowledge the age-verification system Gamesys has put in place, we are concerned that this may incentivise young people to find ways to access this site”.
The group cautioned: “It is yet another online pressure for parents to be aware of: we continue to urge parents to have ongoing conversations with their children about responsible internet use.”
And the Methodist Church also raised concerns saying: “Gambling is age-restricted for a reason: children are excluded because they are vulnerable”.
Toby Scott, Director of Communications for the church, said: “It is especially concerning that Bingo Friendzy’s visual marketing is the kind that you see in children’s games, with bright colours and friendly characters.”
A Facebook spokesman said: “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.”