How Big and Bad are Social Bingo Sites?

Online gambling is like traditional gambling in some ways, but in others, it’s a completely different game altogether. It is legal in some states in the United States of America, and it’s also legal in many other countries. Problems arise in France, parts of Germany and recently in Australia but in the UK, many traditional forms of gambling are legal on and offline. Gambling has been known to be addictive for thousands of years and there are groups and hotlines available to help people with their gambling issues.

However, there’s a new trend starting on the internet, and it is attracting a whole different type of trouble.  Children as young as 11-13 years old are getting addicted to gambling. Our infographic explores this new trend and seeks to evaluate the risks associated with social bingo sites.

Children and Social Gambling Infographic

Some of these figures are pretty frightening. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Social Media Hosts Gambling “Games”

Popular sites like BingoAppy and Bingo Freindzy are real-money gambling games for children hosted on Facebook.  These are theoretically only available to those over the age of 18, yet they employ graphics that seem likely to appeal to children. They make a seemingly harmless “old lady” game that sets children on the track for gambling addictions if they are tempted by the graphics and easy access.

The games are registered in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar and are only available to citizens of the UK who are over 18 years old. However, these types of sites are not as secure as people might think, and children as young as 11 can make an account and use real money to gamble. In fact, it’s estimated that over 3 million kids between the ages of 13 and 17 have made accounts pretending to be older than they really are.

Tokens, Coins and Real Money

Even in the United States where online gambling is fairly restricted, children have access to gambling games online through Facebook and other social media sites, where they earn tokens and points. According to Lisa Shaw on parentingtodayskids.com, 30-40% of minors across the United States participate in some form of gambling. Even with the coin-only games, kids have the option of using real money to buy more tokens, just like Farmville or any other Zynga Facebook game.

Parents and other adults fighting to cut down on their children’s exposure to gambling games often don’t understand why these apps aren’t illegal, because for all intents and purposes, it’s straight up gambling.

Reward-Based Games Pave the Way

When children don’t have access to real-money online gambling, the coins and points they earn in their “children’s games” stimulate the reward centres in the brain and make them crave more stimulation, paving the way for addiciton. Even while their gambling addiction grows, children remain unaware that what they are doing is “real” gambling, at least psychologically if not financially as well.

Online video games and other social media pastimes lead kids to believe they are doing nothing more than killing time playing a harmless game. This idea is further fostered through the animations used to market the game. The sites are made to look child-friendly, and they often have playful anime-style characters that appeal to so many kids between the ages of 8-18 years old, or even younger.

Youth Gambling Addiction is a Growing

On youthgambling.com, it’s estimated that 4-6% of high school students in Canada are addicted to gambling, and another 10-14% are at risk of developing an addiction. On the same site, a list of possible symptoms of gambling addiction is presented, and some symptoms can include:

  • Unexplained absences from work or school
  • Having large amounts of money or material goods from unexplained sources
  • Mood swings
  • Borrowing or steeling money
  • Preoccupation with gambling games

UK Facebook App Marketing

In the UK, the BingoAppy game advertises daily jackpots and keeps a score of recent winners to create the illusion that winning is easy and happens all the time. In reality, the games make more money than they give away, which many reasonable adults know, but children don’t. The game is also marketed as the “’appiest place on Facebook” and offers a free £10 to play. It’s like giving a free drug sample in order to hook future junkies.

It’s been found by the Gambling Commission in the UK that 91% of kids under the age of 18 have gambled at least once in their lives and that children were most likely to gamble on slot machines and scratch cards. An article published by dailymail.co.uk reports that the top leaders of Facebook have met with over 20 different gaming companies, including the popular bingo website 888, to discuss the possibility of gaming licenses.

For a long time games like Slotomania and DoubleDownCasino have appeared on Facebook, but as of now, they all still use virtual coins and points instead of real money. However, the makers of JackpotJoy are among the companies that now have a real gaming license.

Practicing Gaming/Gambling Responsibility

What this all boils down to is that gambling is not suitable for children. It’s not even suitable for adults in many cases if you go by the number of people who suffer from gambling addiction. As Australian news site, theconversation.com says:

Children don’t understand the persuasive intent of marketing messages and can’t critically evaluate them to make informed decisions.

They also warn adults that gambling isn’t just a “bit of fun” for children that have seen their homes torn apart by parents with obsessive gambling addictions or in some cases, gambling-related suicide.

Since there is really no way to stop the games from appearing on the internet, it’s up to parents to teach their children responsible behaviors. Ensure that your children know how to spot a gambling game and instruct them about the pitfalls of gambling. If you gamble yourself, make sure you don’t spend all day on the games so that your children copy your behavior. Set a weekly or monthly amount and let your children know that you stick to your budget and know your limits. All of these tips can help stop children from falling prey to bingo and other gambling games online and help them foster healthy habits for their future.


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