The UK Gambling Commission is monitoring the social gaming space in order to assess its impact on gambling licensing, a Commission official told the publication ‘This Is Money' Saturday.
Earlier this year, Japanese authorities also warned that they are keeping a close eye on the legality of social gambling as the trend sweeps through world markets.
Increased government concern over social gaming on sites like Facebook has been triggered by the increasingly blurred boundaries between the pastime and real money gambling, ‘This is Money' reports, quoting Gambling Commission communications executive John Travers.
“The key question is, is it gambling or not?’ asked Travers, who opined that social gaming was ‘at the perimeter’ of current legislation.
“We are monitoring developments and assessing any wider implications for licensing objectives,” he said.
Social gaming has so far avoided the attention of regulators in both the United Kingdom and the United States as the games are usually played with virtual money and for prizes, thus distancing them from the legal definition of real gambling.
However, players can buy virtual currency and often spend large amounts doing so in order to better play the social games and win points or prizes, and some companies already allow customers to cash in their winnings in the real world.
There have also been reports of a black market in which people can buy and sell virtual winnings for real money.
Social gaming is worth billions of dollars to companies such as Facebook, where users can be as young as 13. But there are concerns over the rapid growth of casino games that, because they are not for cash, can be played by underaged users.
In a recent Liverpool case sub-teenaged school children learned to play poker through free social gaming sites, encouraging one youngster to misuse his father’s credit card on a real money poker site and lose GBP 7,000.
Earlier this month London-listed Bwin.Party, the biggest online gambling company in Europe, said it was ploughing Euro 50 million into social gaming, and other major gambling groups have made investments and acquisitions in the space .