Children must be protected from a new Facebook app which uses cartoon graphics and allows people to gamble with real money, a Fine Gael TD has warned.
Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has written to the Advertising Standards Authority to enquire about what regulations would be put in place if the Bingo Friendzy App was made available in Ireland.
It was launched for users in Britain and the North this week and is expected to soon make its way to the Republic.
It allows people to play 90 Bingo and slot machine games for cash prizes. It features small fluffy cartoon characters, prompting claims it is targeted at children.
Users must register their age as being over 18 to use the application, but Mr Harris said how a person’s age is verified has been called into question.
The Dáil’s youngest TD said Facebook is “not the right forum for a gambling app and the use of child-friendly graphics is inappropriate and misleading.”
The real-cash app is a first for Facebook and was developed by the online gambling operator, Gamesys. Players will need to use a credit card to gamble, as opposed to Facebook credits — the site’s virtual currency.
The social networking site’s largest gaming partner, Zynga, said it also plans to introduce real-money gambling versions of its games next year.
Mr Harris said: “If it [Facebook] is to continue to be a valuable tool we have to ensure that our young people are protected and that access is only granted to age-appropriate material.”
Parent groups have raised concerns about the app and Mr Harris said it is not difficult to see why. “Gambling, when it takes hold, can destroy lives, having a profound impact on families and individuals,” he said.
“I will be contacting the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland to enquire further about the matter in the interest of ensuring that children worldwide are being adequately protected and safeguarded against the dangers of online gambling.”
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