After much speculation the UK Gambling Commission has begun to investigate the social gaming scene and as a result caused much discomfort for many online gaming operators.
The Commission have launched the investigation after they said the lines were becoming blurred between traditional casino games at online gambling sites and social games played on social networking sites.
Generally games on social networks are free to play; it is because of this that they have escaped regulators in both the UK and the US. However, they often offer the chance to buy extra points or chips using real money. According to the Gambling Commission they need to answer the question of whether it is gambling and assess any wider implications for licensing objectives.
According to Ivor Jones, an analyst at Numis Securities, if it is decided that these games should be regulated then it will be “difficult for them to continue to be offered to many players, which would financially hurt the games operators.”
On the other hand, there are many people calling for regulation as the games are available to young children who have social network accounts. Because the initial game play is free of charge, parents often assume that there is nothing wrong or addictive about them.
However, some operators are clearly unconcerned. Bwin.Party Digital announced recently that they are investing over £30 million into a new social gaming unit to develop social gaming and distribute their own games on social networks. The new gaming studio will be run by former CEO of Mytopia, Barak Rabinowiz, and they are planning of developing new social gambling games starting with a poker game.
Bwin.Party will be competing with groups such as Zynga, the producers of the Facebook Texas Hold’em Poker game which attracts nearly 7 million users every day. Another major competitor is Playtika whose Slotomania attracts around 2 million daily players.