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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Age-gating technology blocks children from online gambling

The launch of a real money gaming app, Bingo Friendzy on Facebook shone a spotlight on the advances that child protection software has made in recent years.

In the early days of the internet, parents needed to manually restrict access to inappropriate websites to shield children from adult content, but website owners are now increasingly taking responsibility for keeping children out of age-inappropriate sites.

In Facebook’s case, the launch of the Bingo and Slots Friendzy app shows the lengths to which the company is going to ensure the right age group and demographic is looking at their paid-for content. Anybody signing up to play Bingo Friendzy will need to provide their name and address to have their identity verified through a credit card or electoral roll register. The security – known as age-gating - is a lot more sophisticated than simply asking people to confirm their date of birth. Alcohol companies are also looking at ways in which they can use age-gating to market on the internet without targeting people below the legal minimum drinking age.

The app developer’s Gamesys, owner of other bingo sites such as Jackpotjoy, must comply with UK gambling regulations which make it illegal for any gambling operator to take a bet from a person aged under-18. Gambling in the UK is a well-regulated activity, in contrast to other EU countries and the US where official online gambling operators have been shut down and replaced by underground sites operating out of Costa Rica and Singapore.

Because gambling laws differ between countries, for the moment the Bingo Friendzy app is only available to Facebook members in the UK. To confirm that players are located where they say they are, Facebook uses a procedure called geo-gating which checks the member’s IP address and filters advertising and access to features depending on the laws of the territory where the player is based.

Applied to Bingo Friendzy, geo-gating will hide updates from overseas members which normally post to a member’s page. So, for instance, if you are playing Facebook bingo here in the UK but have Facebook friends overseas, they won't be able to view the app, know that you installed the app, or see any of your activity updates when you play. Geo-gating provides a total blackout in territories where the laws on online gaming are either unclear or where online gaming is banned.

With almost 30 million Facebook members in the UK, that still leaves plenty of friends to get Friendzy with. Over the past few years’ online bingo has exploded in the UK, as the general population find it a more attractive form of entertainment than poker, roulette or even TV.

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