Social networking and online casinos are two of the biggest web phenomena today. Twitter and Facebook have taken the entire digital universe by storm, letting people from any corner of the globe communicate with each other over common interests. Since one of the most active communities in the online world is the online gaming community, it was only a matter of time before these two worlds collided. And now, online casino operators are finding ways to integrate social networking media apps into their sites.
ShoutBox is a social networking app launched by Bwin, and it is becoming very successful, allowing online players to chat amongst themselves while playing casino games online. The app allows players to invite contacts to try games and participate in online tournaments, such as slots or poker tournaments. Online gambling experts believe that this type of social networking will become an integral part of the online casino of the future.
Online wagering sites that have not installed their own social media apps use existing social networking sites to keep current players interested and to bring new ones on board. Twitter accounts and Facebook Fan pages are ways in which casino operators expand their reach, by using advertising promotions and answering questions quickly. There are even games on Facebook, such as Zynga Poker, that web casinos use to drum up interest in their sites. Such social networking tournaments allow players to compete for free while encouraging them to visit the owner’s gambling website.
But while Facebook is extraordinarily popular all over the world, in the UK, it is not as popular as online gambling itself. A 2010 survey by Nielsen reported that in the UK, the number of internet gamers increased by 40% over the previous year, while the increase in UK use of social media was significantly lower.
The UK is a world leader in online wagering, so the numbers are not that surprising. Other European countries are following closely on their heels as most of Europe now has regulated web gambling. When the numbers are broken down, it becomes clear that middle aged men account for most of the increase in UK online wagering numbers, though women are big fans too, with poker and bingo being the most popular games among the British.
Because so many of the web gamers in Britain are middle aged, and because so many Facebook users tend to be younger, it may be that the mix of social networking and gambling won’t happen on as large a scale until the casinos themselves build social networking into the sites themselves.
Additionally, if the US eventually regulates online gambling, making it clearly legal rather than residing in a somewhat vague legal status as it does in 2010, a number of UK gambling companies are poised to apply for licenses to operate in the US, and this should marry online gaming to social networking even more strongly.