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Facebook to host online casinos?

Reports from the U.K. claim that the social network is in talks with various gambling companies with a view to developing real money gambling on the site.

2 min read

There is a limitless need on the part of social networks to make limitless amounts of money.

If you are Facebook and you might, possibly maybe, have an IPO shindig next year, you have to help potential investors believe that your revenues are rosier than an English country garden.

This might be why reports are emerging from the United Kingdom that Facebook is considering allowing casinos to operate within its virtual friendship facility.

When I say casinos, I mean ones with real money.

The Daily Mail fulminates at the prospect. It cites the knowledgeable people at eGaming Review in insisting that Facebook is in negotiations with around 20 gambling experts, consultants, and homes of online gambling.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It suggests that companies such as Gamesys and 888 might be first in line to open virtual but very real casinos on Facebook.

You might wonder why the U.K. might be the testing ground for such a risk-positive venture. Well, the country is a little more welcoming to online gambling that some, more puritan nations.

Indeed, it's barely possible to watch an English Premier League soccer game without one of the two teams wearing a logo from an online gambling site. And so-called betting shops bring a polished and charming presence to Britain's high streets, mottled as they are by cheap clothing stores and imported American coffee houses.

Facebook reportedly doesn't deny that meetings on this subject have taken place. I have asked the company to clarify just what stage such negotiations might have reached.

The Mail does quote eGaming Review editor James Bennett, who said: "Facebook is looking for new revenue streams and the gambling industry is looking for new markets. There is still a lot of work needed to be done, not least what percentage of revenues gambling companies would have to give away to Facebook and the issue of age verification."

Of course there will be those who will worry that children's minds will be polluted by the notion that gambling--like sex, drugs, and reality TV--is a sin that can only lead to pain and sorrow.

Some might think, though, that any child of reading age might have noticed events on Wall Street and mused that online gambling has been comfortably institutionalized into contemporary society.

Updated at 1: 35 p.m. PST: Facebook has reacted with some angst to the Daily Mail's suggestion that children might be at risk. Spokesman Andrew Noyes told me: "Our commitment to providing a safe, secure and appropriate experience for teenagers is a fundamental principle of Facebook. The suggestion that we would make any decision that doesn't carefully consider the impact on this audience is short-sighted and, frankly, offensive to the hundreds of people who work to keep kids safe and the many parents at Facebook. Beyond that, we're not going to comment on the multiple layers of speculation occurring here."

One can with some safety conclude, however, that negotiations with a view to introducing real money gambling on the site have, indeed, taken place.