Coming soon to smartphones and social media near you: financial ruin.
As gambling and gaming converge, it won’t be long before you can bet the house through Facebook and other online platforms; so warned experts at a gaming conference in Vancouver this week. And you thought your Farmville addiction was expensive (but justified – after all, how could anyone with any sense of reality expect you to manage all those imaginary crops on your pretend acreage with just one make-believe tractor?).
The prospect of everyone having their own Facebookie has the gaming industry seeing dollar signs. Big ones. Juniper Research says global betting through mobile handsets and tablets hit almost $20 billion last year and will top $100 billion by 2017. (3 to 1 says they’re right.)
All that cash could be had with only a fraction of the expenses casinos currently incur. No more water jugs to use when diluting free drinks. No more glitzy costumes for showgirls. No more hair gel for floor bosses.
Adapting to the online world shouldn’t be a problem either. Software is already in place, so the big challenge will be recreating the tacky atmosphere of Las Vegas (which really should be sued by Wisconsin for appropriating the title of Cheese Capital of the World).
Virtual hookers could add new meaning to Facebook “pokes,” alright, but not even 3D goggles can come close to replicating the real-life experience of a broke, shirtless drunk throwing up on your shoes.
And speaking of the gamblers (known in the industry by a highly technical term: Suckers), how will they feel about foregoing vital page updates (“Just walked to the kitchen from the livingroom”) in favour of betting on the ponies?
Well, some 500 million people already use Facebook, largely because humans are social creatures who thrive on conversation and a sense of belonging. We also like thrills, even when they can lead to train wrecks, which explains gambling and reality TV. Combining those elements could be the proverbial marriage made in heaven. Our money, though, says the end result will be more like The Day After for those who were married by Elvis in the Vegas chapel.
Kids breathe social media, so we must somehow block them from contacting Joe the Facebookie. Otherwise, expect a lot of strange chat sessions — “Hi Granny. How are you? How’s the hip? I raise you $20 and call” – and Gamblers Anonymous meetings springing up at Disneyland.
And as alleged adults, are we truly prepared for the idiocy of blowing on our phones for good luck before a roll of the digital dice? Just imagine the response we’d get from Siri!
Given all the money riding on social media gambling, the odds are that it soon will be on screens everywhere, regulations or no regulations. The sites will proclaim that they are nobly bringing choice to the marketplace.
When they do, we will better understand the old saying about the road to (financial ) ruin being paved with good intentions.