They, and the rest of the gaming community, have been thinking about this for a long time. Social gaming is the hot topic of discussion in this community, and there has been much speculation as to how Facebook would monetise the proliferation of free games that are already gaining momentum.
Well, now we know... but rather than a process of convoluted up-selling of virtual tokens or unnecessary yet compelling add-ons, you can now use real money directly to play Bingo. And, if you are very very lucky, maybe win something occasionally. What makes this so compelling for Facebook is the power of influence that the environment (I hesitate to call Facebook either a "site", or an "app") has over its participants. Through the strength of social proof, one of Cialdini's 6 techniques of influence, real-money-gaming will garner acceptability and will spread rapidly throughout the community. It is easy to do, in an environment you understand, with friends (albeit virtual) around you egging you on.
And so this is a shrewd move by Facebook, already on the cards but possibly accelerated as a result of a significant share price drop on launch, that will clearly increase the value of the company and will open up new possibilities for affiliates and gaming companies to make their offerings available to a wider audience.
At the moment the collaboration with GameSys is constrained to offering Bingo, which is the ultimate social game (although I never really saw the attraction of a purple dabber myself..). However GameSys also offer Casio, Slots, Poker and Blackjack on line through more traditional outlets, and I'm sure that there will be gradual inclusion of these games in the site.
If you have ever tried to open an on-line gaming or trading account you will find that it is not straightforward, and that there are a variety of credit and security checks that ensure that you are who you say you are, live where you say you live and are as old as you say you are. This is a legal requirement, and the UK Gambling commission police stringently all gaming sites and activities. The regulations are in place to protect both the gamer and the game company, to ensure that gamers are not cleaned out against their will and that gaming companies aren't used to launder illegal money. It seems to work, and it is because of the quality of these regulations that Facebook are opening up in the UK first. Gaming regulation is not consistent across the world, but we may well see expansion into Europe in the mid term, and the jury is still out on US states.
What does all this mean technically? Well very little changes, the Facebook architecture is already scalable, and can support multi-player gaming. You might predict that it won't increase activity on Facebook initially, rather it may divert users from the standard sharing and chatting activity towards occasional gaming. Which , since this is still limited to Bingo, if you really want a fully functional gaming experience, you would hop to a gaming site.
We need to watch this space carefully, as Google+ is already providing social gaming, Amazon recently entered the market, and so.cl and pinterest have emerged as to join the crowded online-social-space space (though they yet to make social gaming platforms available). Then of course there is Twitter. These platforms will be equally well placed to offer real money gambling alongside their core offerings in time, and gaming companies will be looking to capitalise on these platforms as quickly as possible. They have been waiting for Facebook to open the crack in the door, now they will barge it open and stream through.
As if loosing £1 on the lottery each week isn't enough, there will be more and more ways for us all to lose, and now in friendly, social, collaborative environments.
"The House always"...