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The characters are cuddly, but don’t let those wobbly eyes fool you — the stakes in this Facebook game are very real.

It’s called Bingo Friendzy, and it’s the first game on Facebook to let players win (and lose) real money. It launched this week exclusively in the UK, where online gambling is already a popular and regulated activity. But the situation will be closely watched in the US, where regulators appear to be warming to the idea of online gambling at some point in the future.

The game is made by Gamesys, operator of the existing UK gambling site The Facebook game is limited to people 18 and over, and it’s available only to Facebook users in the UK.

Financial terms of Facebook’s agreement with Gamesys haven’t been disclosed. The social network is looking for new revenue streams to fuel its growth as rising mobile usage puts a damper on its advertising impressions.

A Facebook executive tells the Financial Times, “Gambling is very popular and well regulated in the UK . . . for millions of bingo users it’s already a social experience [so] it makes sense [for us] to offer that as well.”

Zynga has said it will be getting into real gambling, but another company with a potentially big stake in the outcome is DoubleDown Interactive, the Seattle-based venture that was acquired last year by gambling technology giant IGT. DoubleDown makes “casino-style” games for Facebook, with no real money at stake, but a combination with IGT’s systems and technologies could put the company in a unique competitive position.

Speaking with GeekWire recently at the Casual Connect games conference in Seattle, DoubleDown exec Glenn Walcott speculated that gambling in the US could still be two years away. It would likely be rolled out on a state-by-state basis, making the impact more limited at first, he said.

“In our office here, we don’t focus on that, because it’s just so far out,” he said, while acknowledging that people at IGT corporate offices could be more focused on how the trends are playing out.

What do you think — do you want to see real gambling on Facebook?

More coverage: Telegraph, Gizmodo, and The Next Web.

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