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This could get pretty interesting. PopCap Games this week launched a new series of casino-style games on Facebook in which players compete in slot-based games, playing by themselves or with friends using virtual currency. The Lucky Gem Casino games — which utilize characters from PopCap’s line-up of blockbuster hits such as Chuzzle, Bejeweled and Zuma — are free to play but gamers can purchase more virtual coins using Facebook Credits.

That’s a direct shot across the bow of Double Down Interactive, the Seattle gaming company that was acquired earlier this year for up to $500 million by casino gaming giant IGT. Double Down’s casino-style games already attract more than 1.4 million daily players on Facebook, and it too uses a free-to-play model.

Obviously, there’s a big market for slot-based games, and with recent chatter about online gambling becoming legal in the U.S. the market could explode.

PopCap — acquired last year by Electronic Arts for as much as $1.3 billion — has been strengthening its hand in social games. Earlier this month, it released Solitaire Blitz for Facebook — an aquatically-themed card game that marked the company’s third title on Facebook.

Rumors of PopCap’s foray into slot-style games emerged last fall after it filed a trademark on Lucky Gem Casino, the name the company is using for its new casino titles.

The initial version of the game will include seven luck-based games, and marks PopCap’s first foray in the arena of casino-style games on Facebook.

“Casino-themed social games are one of the fastest growing genres on Facebook”, said Dennis Ryan, vice president of worldwide publishing at PopCap. “The strength of PopCap’s game brands and the quality of the Lucky Gem product combined with our experience in luck-based games outside of Facebook means we are perfectly positioned to deliver the ultimate online free casino game experience – PopCap style.”


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