Social Networking and the rise of free play slots and casino games

We recently came across the UK Gambling Commissions report on social gaming. This is a very interesting area for us, primarily because as social media experts, the impact of regulation and legislation within this field is of critical importance to us. However, it’s also important as we have seen a dramatic increase in the popularity of social gaming in recent years. A number of major social networks now allow the use of social gaming across their platforms, and there has been a considerable amount of growth and interest within this area, particularly by casino operators interested in creating a new marketing vertical for their products.

Yet, it’s clear that there has been a considerable amount of concern about the growth of social gaming, and we completely understand why that is the case. It was this concern that led to a the UK Gambling Commission undertaking significant research into the filed in order to learn more about it and the potential issues that this sector may pose.

Whilst social gaming is a relatively new phenomenon, it’s apparent that free play slots and casino games have been around for some time. Yet it’s the social nature of social networking sites, and their massive popularity that have driven the growth in social gaming. Yet the key issue with social gaming, and one that the Gambling Commission has clearly identified, is that the boundaries between social gaming and traditional commercial gaming have become somewhat blurred.

It’s this blurring of the boundaries of social gaming that is a real concern and one that drove the Gambling Commission’s motives in commissioning a scoping review about the impact of social gaming. This review makes interesting reading, and whilst there is some concern it looks as if the Commission will continue with a ‘watching brief’ rather than introduce legislation to regulate this sector at this stage.

But what does this mean for stakeholders that work within the social gaming field? It’s clear that operators need to ensure that they operate responsibly and communicate clearly in respect to any social games that they promote on social networking platforms. There appears to be a place for social gaming, but as with most things, this needs to be moderated with the key concept of ‘responsibility’ being at the heart of any marketing efforts in respect to social gaming. It’s certainly clear that social gaming is big business and not just talk – as shown by Aristocrat’s recent acquisition of the US based social gaming company Big Fish, for $1.3 billion. That’s no loose change in anyone’s books, and clearly indicates that social gaming is likely to play a significant role in the future. It will be interesting to see whether there is a spate of other acquisitions in the social gaming sector following the announcement of this deal.

What is clear is that social gaming represents a new marketing avenue for operators within the online gambling field. It also offers an avenue for those experts and social media consultants that specialise in social gaming. Yet, one thing remains clear – a responsible and coherent approach to social gaming is required from all stakeholders.