The virtual coins that players wager in casino-style games on Facebook may be getting a real monetary value, at least some time in the future. The social gaming powerhouse Zynga tells All Things D today that it is in “active conversations with potential partners” about Internet gambling. “We know from listening to our players that there’s an interest in the real money gambling market,” the company said.
That’s particularly interesting in light of last week’s acquisition of Seattle-based Double Down Interactive for as much as $500 million by gambling giant International Game Technology. In an interview with GeekWire, Double Down CEO Greg Enell said that gambling on Facebook is a real possibility.
“Six months ago, we didn’t consider real money an option at all, but with IGT that becomes an option, because they’re licensed and regulated in all the states in the U.S.,” Enell said. “And because we have the strength of the relationship on Facebook, we can marry all of that together and, for example, offer real-money online slots in California on Facebook. Obviously there’s a tremendous economic upside to that.”
The U.S. Justice Department recently signaled a possible reversal of its long-held position on Internet gambling, raising the possibility of online wagering in some states.
Arvind Bhatia, analyst at Sterne Agere, said recently that Internet gambling across the U.S. is a long shot and that Zynga may not necessarily be in a strong position to capitalize. “Zynga’s (players) are gamers and not gamblers,” Bhatia told VentureBeat. “Also, legalization of online gambling is obviously not a given and even if it happens it will probably take a while.”
Tricia Duryee at All Things D notes that Zynga’s push into online gambling would take enormous resources, and possible acquisitions. But Zynga, despite a slumping stock price, still has a substantial war chest given the $1 billion it raised through an IPO last month. The stock is up nearly five percent in trading today.
Zynga already offers a virtual casino game on Facebook, dubbed Zynga Poker. The company says the game is the “world’s largest free-to-play online poker game.”
DoubleDown Casino launched in April 2010, and has since grown to 1.4 million daily active users. Facebook recently listed the game as the No. 4 most popular game on the social network in 2011.