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A report by the UK newspaper The Daily Mirror, problem gambling experts are claiming that social media websites such as Facebook stand poised to create an increase in problem gamblers among future generations.
Experts quoted in the report cite an "an explosion of Las Vegas-style casino games" throughout Facebook, which allow teenagers the ability to play the games for fun, but also allow players the chance to buy virtual credits with real money.
The Mirror claims that in the UK there are three million Facebook users aged between 13 and 17, with a possible one million more under the age 13 and pretending to be older than what they really are.
University of Salford Dr. Carolyn Downs told the paper that she was alerted to the possibility of Facebook creating problem gamblers when her teenage daughter became visibly upset when losing virtual currency while playing a social game.
"It’s well-established that the younger the children start gambling, the more likely it is they will become habitual gamblers and also problem gamblers. It’s a long-term, life-long risk. What we’re doing is setting up these kids to be problem gamblers as they go through life." Dr. Downs told the paper.
It has been hypothesized that Facebook intends to to offer real money gambling through its website. Recently Facebook executives met with representatives from about 20 gambling firms to discuss the possibility of Facebook gaming licenses.
The idea of social media gambling may be popular among the corporate world, but politicians in the UK are likely to look into the issue before giving it the OK.
Mandy Barrie, the Policy and Development Director for the UK Gambling Commission went on the record as saying: "This is a really rapidly-moving area. We need to think through very carefully any risks that it presents particularly for young people. There is a link between early exposure to gambling and developing a problem in adulthood."